UK stocks began the week strongly after more positive news on a coronavirus vaccine emerged this morning.

The vaccine developed by Oxford University, and to be manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN), has been shown to be 70% effective in protecting people against Covid-19 in phase-three trial data.

The effectiveness is less than the 95% protection shown by the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, but this vaccine is a lot cheaper to produce than the other two ($2-3 per dose compared to $20-37 per dose) and is easier to store, meaning it can be distributed more widely across the world.

The UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 index jumped 0.57% to 6,387.68.

Shares in AstraZeneca opened around 1.4% lower to £81.98.

PUB STOCKS RISE

Also lifting markets this morning has been news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to outline plans later on easing restrictions once lockdown ends on 2 December.

Gyms and non-essential shops are set to reopen, while 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants could also be relaxed.

Talk of the latter has caused a big spike in the share prices of pub groups, with Mitchell and Butlers (MAB) jumping 7.34% in early trade to 234p, Marstons (MARS) rising 6.6% to 72.8p and Youngs (YGNA) gaining 4.8% to £12.00, while JD Wetherspoon (JDW) moved 2.46% higher to £10.96.

CORPORATE NEWS

Meanwhile in company news, insurance company Aviva (AV.) gained 1.7% to 323.4p, having agreed to sell its 80% stake in the Italian life insurance joint venture Aviva Vita to partner UBI Banca for €400 million.

The transaction, expected to close in the first half of 2021, represents a multiple of 8.4 times Aviva Vita’s 2019 IFRS net profit, and 1.2 times its net asset value as at 30 June 2020.

Roadside assistance company The AA (AA.) reversed 5.5% to 31.7p on announcing that it had received a possible 35p per share takeover from investors including TowerBrook Capital Partners and Warburg Pincus International.

An initial approach by the potential suitors had been announced previously by AA.

Cinema group Cineworld (CINE) jumped 16% to 53.61p after it secured a $450 million debt facility to firm up its finances and said it was eyeing an additional $300m in liquidity.

Telecom company Vodafone (VOD) climbed 0.4% to 123.63p on announcing that it had committed to reducing its global carbon emissions to 'net zero' by 2040, a decade earlier than first planned.

Recruitment firm SThree (STEM) rose 2.8% to 314.5p, having upgraded its annual profit expectations following an improved performance at its US and German businesses, driven by demand in the life sciences and technology sectors.

SThree’s pre-tax profit for the year through November is now expected to be marginally above the top end of the range of market expectations, currently ranging form £23.2 million-to-£27.7 million.

Solar project investor NextEnergy Solar Fund (NESF) firmed 1.4% to 106.64p as it posted a 12% rise in first-half profit and upped its dividend after it generated more energy than budgeted.

NextEnergy Solar Fund declared an interim dividend of 3.53p, up 2.6% year-on-year.

German business park investor Sirius Real Estate (SRE) gained 3% to 86p, having upped its dividend after notching an improvement in its underlying profit amid a rise in revenue.

Sirius Real Estate declared an interim dividend of 1.82c per share, up 2.8% year-on-year.

Russia-focused gold miner Petropavlovsk (POG) shed 0.9% to 26.45p after it appointed of KPMG to investigate ‘certain transactions’ undertaken by the company in the three years to August 2020.

The forensic investigation is principally into related party transactions and had been approved by shareholders at a general meeting in August.

High-tech component supplier to the aerospace and energy markets Meggitt (MGGT) added 2.4% to 389.2p as it issued $300 million of private placement debt.

Greencoat UK Wind (UKW) fell 0.2% to 132.14p on news that it had agreed to acquire a 49% stake in the Humber Gateway offshore wind farm from Germany’s RWE, in partnership with pension funds managed by Greencoat Capital, for £648 million.

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Issue Date: 23 Nov 2020