The FTSE 100 remained in positive territory on Wednesday afternoon as a positive coronavirus vaccine update from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer lifted markets across Europe and the US.
Having started the day in the red, the UK’s benchmark index closed 0.31% higher to 6,385.24, mirroring gains seen in other markets with Germany’s DAX closing 0.52% higher and the S&P 500 in the US advancing 0.2%.
The rise in share prices comes as it was revealed earlier today that the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to protect 94% of adults over 65 years old.
More data released from their ongoing phase three trial suggests it works just as well in people of all races and ethnicities. The companies say they will now apply for authorisation for emergency use of the vaccine in the US.
In company news, general insurer RSA Insurance (RSA) increased 4.17% to 674p after it agreed to be acquired by Intact Financial and Tryg for £7.2 billion.
RSA shareholders would receive 685p in cash for each of their shares, representing a 51% premium to their closing price on 4 November when a possible bid was first announced.
Enterprise software company Micro Focus International (MCRO) soared 31.17% to 356.4p on announcing that it expected to report a 10% fall in annual revenue as anticipated, though operating margins would be at the upper end of its expectations.
Micro Focus’s annual adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation margin was expected at around 39%, following operational improvement and cost cutting.
Power utility SSE (SSE) rose 4.38% to £14.07 having posted a rise in first-half profit, boosted by the £500 million sale completed in January of its retail business to Ovo.
Adjusted earnings per share fell 34% to 11.9p, within the company's guidance range of 10p to 12.5p, owing to the impact of the pandemic.
Looking forward, SSE said it expected to post adjusted EPS for the full year of 75p to 85p. It declared an interim dividend of 24.4p per share, in line with guidance.
Property developer British Land (BLND) fell 2.43% to 498.6p as its first-half pre-tax losses widened to £757 million on lower rental income and a fall in the value of its assets.
The share price fall came despite British Land resuming its dividend, via an interim payout of 8.4p per share that was nevertheless down from 15.97p year-on-year.
Chemicals giant Croda International (CRDA) fell 1.38% to £60.00 as it agreed to acquire Spanish flavour and fragrences company Iberchem for €820 million. The deal is being funded through debt as well as a £600 million placing for institutional investors and a retail offer.
Mining company Anglo American (AAL) gained 1.45% to £21.71 after the value of rough diamond sales at its De Beers unit increased during the ninth cycle of 2020 to $450 million.
Thermal energy management and niche pumping specialist Spirax‐Sarco Engineering (SPX) reversed 3.78% to £114.65, despite announcing that a decline in sales in the four months through October was less severe than in the first half of the year.
Spirax‐Sarco said its operating profit margin was higher in the four months to the end of October than in the first half, supported by increased sales and continued cost containment.
Mining company KAZ Minerals (KAZ) shed 1.54% to 640p on announcing a one-year delay to its huge Baimskaya project in Russia.
Storage company Safestore (SAFE) traded 0.31% higher to 817p as its annual revenue climbed 6.9% after it boosted occupancy levels and storage rates.
Tool and equipment rental group Speedy Hire (SDY) gained 3.95% to 68.4p after it posted a 92% drop in first-half profit, but said it expected to post annual results at the top end of expectations as demand recovers.