The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 indices were trading higher at midday with the former ahead by 0.4% to 7047.89 points and the latter ahead by 0.5% to 23,562.47 points.
Investors are anticipating the release of US retail sales figures later today.
ASHTEAD IN DEMAND
Equipment rental giant Ashtead (AHT) advanced 4% to £60.94 after raising its outlook on full year performance following ‘strong’ first quarter results. The forecast for annual revenue was raised to a range of 13% to 16% from 6% to 9% previously.
For the three months to July 2021, pre-tax profit powered 74% higher to $416 million year-on-year as revenue increased 21% to £1.85 billion.
Shares in construction group Kier (KIE) fell 1.7% despite the group announcing that it had returned to profitability after successive years of significant losses. Results for the year to June 30 recorded a pre-tax profit of £5.6 million compared to a £225.3 million loss during the previous year. However revenue declined from £3.5 billion to £3.2 billion due to the company exiting non-core low margin and loss making contracts.
FTSE 250 retailer Marks & Spencer (MKS) blamed Brexit for its decision to close 11 high street food stores in Paris. The group had entered the French market ten years ago using a franchise model. However recent supply chain difficulties have prevented the company from delivering fresh and chilled products to the high standards they aspire to. Shares were 1.35% lower at 183.63p.
Home improvement retailer Wickes (WIX) rose 3% to 2239.5p on news it now anticipates annual adjusted pre-tax profits to come in towards the upper end of analyst expectations range of £67 million-to-£75 million after swinging to a first half profit amid ‘buoyant’ demand from local tradesmen and underpinned by strong digital sales.
The upgrade to the outlook was supported by the ‘strong outlook for Core and DIFM trends, together with half year results which delivered adjusted pre-tax profit £1.5 million ahead of guidance’, said Wickes.
Drinks group C&C (CCR) fizzed 4.7% higher to 236.8p on the news the Bulmers, Magners and Tennent’s maker has returned to profit ahead of plan following the gradual easing of restrictions and phased reopening of the hospitality sector across Ireland and the UK during the first half of the fiscal year.
C&C assured that while it is seeing general upward pressure on input costs and in its distribution business amid industry wide capacity constraints, its exposure to commodity inflation is largely mitigated through long-term supply contracts and partnerships and it remains ‘on track with the initiatives to deliver the €18 million in annualised cost savings announced in May 2021’.
Also in demand was online trading brokerage IG (IGG), bid up 3.4% to 860p after the online trading brokerage reported a rise in first quarter adjusted revenue, as slowing client growth was offset by a boost from the recently-acquired tastytrade.
OTHER RISERS AND FALLERS
E-commerce firm THG (THG) tumbled 4.4% to 610p, despite reporting rapid-fire first half growth, as investors were unsettled by plans for a separate listing of its beauty division next year, with the company also trailing a divvying up of its nutrition arm and Ingenuity technology and logistics platform too.
‘Trading has been encouraging since the reopening of our stores, and we’ll take a big step forward as a brand with the opening of our global flagship store in Oxford Street later in the Autumn,’ said the company.
‘Sales continue to grow but, as with other businesses, we have seen pressure on freight costs and currency exchange rates,’ cautioned the company.
Shares in mining company Gemfields Group (GEM:AIM), fell 1.34% to 12.48p despite returning to profit. Interim net profit after tax is forecast to be approximately $23.8m. This compares with a prior year loss of $56.7 million.