London’s blue chip benchmark traded slightly lower at lunchtime on Wednesday as a higher-than-expected reading of UK inflation stoked some fears over rising prices.
In the US, futures markets suggested a similarly tepid feel to trading on Wall Street, with retail sales data scheduled to be released.
By noon, the FTSE 100 was 0.12% lower at 6,740.64 points, while the FTSE 250 was off 0.7% at 21,263.2.
Meanwhile, a disappointing earnings update from British American Tobacco (BAT) highlighted the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on consumer spending.
British American Tobacco dropped 4.2% to £26.34, even as it reported a rise in annual profit, citing strength at its vaping business.
The firm upped its dividend 2.5% to 215.6p, while guiding for 3-5% constant-currency revenue growth in 2021 and mid-single-digit percentage earnings growth ‘reflecting continued Covid-19 impacts’.
Fellow tobacco company Imperial Brands (IMB) slipped 1.3% to £14.924 on announcing that chief financial officer (CFO) Oliver Tant would stand down by no later than August. Tant would be replaced by Lukas Paravicini, currently CFO of agricultural commodities and brokerage group ED&F Man.
Mining giant Rio Tinto (RIO) added 2.6% to £64.20, having booked a 22% jump in annual profit after it benefited from higher iron ore prices, buoyed by Chinese demand for the key steelmaking ingredient.
The Anglo-Australian company also hiked its dividend by 21% to $4.64 per share, and added a special payout of $0.93, bringing the total payout for 2020 to $5.57 per share.
Online contracts-for-difference broker Plus500 (PLUS) softened 0.5% to £13.72 even as it posted a large rise in annual profit that nevertheless fell short of investors’ lofty expectations.
Plus500 declared a dividend of $0.54 per share, up from $0.37 in 2019, plus a special dividend of $0.287.
Aviation services group Signature Aviation (SIG) ascended 0.5% to 402p, having agreed to sell its engine repair and overhaul business to StandardAero for $230 million.
Fresh produce supplier Total Produce (TOT:AIM) fattened up 23.3% to 161.5p after the company agreed to be acquired by Dole Food in a share-based transaction that would create an entity with combined assets worth $4.5 billion.
The deal would see Total Produce shares exchanged for shares in Dole at a fixed exchange ratio, whereby Total Produce shareholders would receive 82.5% of the combined entity, to be named Dole.
Automotive fluid systems manufacturer TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) shed 0.3% to 280.5p on announcing that chief executive William L. Kozyra would retire in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Kozyra would be succeeded by current executive vice president Hans Dieltjens, who would take on the role of chief operating officer from 1 March as a transitional step.
Property investor Supermarket Income REIT (SUPR) added 0.3% to 108.8p after it acquired Sainsbury’s supermarket in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, from John Morgan Estates for £24.8 million.