UK stocks were largely flat early on Monday as the UK prepared to start offering Covid-19 vaccines to over-70s, while tensions remained high in the US, where markets are closed for Martin Luther King day, ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

By 8.25 am, the FTSE 100 was up just 0.01% at 6,736.2 points, while the FTSE 250 edged up 0.18% to 20,653.2.

ASTRAZENECA ADVANCES

In corporate news, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) gained 0.6% to £76.40 after its Enhertu drug was approved in the US for the treatment of patients with metastatic gastric cancer.

British gas parent company Centrica (CAN) cheapened 2.1% to 49.6p after announcing the departure of chief financial officer Johnathan Ford for personal reasons.

Ford is being replaced by Kate Ringrose, who has had been with Centrica for 16 years, most recently as its financial controller.

SPIRENT SPARKS HIGHER

Telecoms and connectivity testing kit manufacturer Spirent Communications (SPT) sparked up 1.3% to 266p as annual revenue rose 4% to $522 million, helping the company to achieve a ‘strong’ rise in earnings in line with its expectations.

Spirent also said it may return excess cash to shareholders, but warned that an ongoing Covid-19 impact on customer spending patterns meant growth in 2021 was expected to be second half weighted.

Animal genetics company Genus (GNS) rose 3.2% to £42.49 as management guided profits growth expectations for the year to June 2021 higher, drawing confidence from continued strong trading through the first half.

Sausage skins maker Devro (DVO) fattened up 2% to 158p on news annual underlying operating profit is expected to come in around the upper end of the £38 million-to-£40.5 million range of analyst expectations following strong trading in the final months of 2020.

‘Trading in the final months of 2020 was slightly ahead of management’s expectations, driven by higher volumes and margins,’ explained the Scotland-based company.

Colour cosmetics supplier Warpaint London (W7L:AIM) rallied 7.1% to 90p on the news full-year results will beat previous guidance, thanks to strong trading in the second half of 2020, and that its W7 cosmetics range will be stocked in even more Tesco (TSCO) stores.

Wealth manager AFH Financial (AFHP:AIM) was unchanged at 390p despite reporting a seventh successive rise in annual profit, boosted by increased revenue and funds under management and holding the dividend steady at 6p per share.

VELOCYS TUMBLES

Alternative fuel group Velocys (VLS:AIM) tumbled 27% to 7.51p on announcing that Shell has withdrawn from a joint venture formed to develop sustainable aviation fuel.

Velocys said it would continue to work with British Airways, the other partner in the Altalto joint venture, to secure finance for the Altalto Immingham plant.

Financial product and services company CPP (CPP:AIM) surged 37.2% to 450p after it upgraded its core earnings guidance following a stronger-than-expected recovery in India.

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Issue Date: 18 Jan 2021