UK shares opened slightly lower on Tuesday after February GDP moved back to growth of 0.4%, positive but below economists’ expectations.

Trading in Asia was mixed after Chinese exports grew at a record pace in March, with the Shanghai Composite down 0.5% while the Nikkei 225 was 0.7% higher.

Brent Crude prices were 0.6% higher at $63.7 a barrel while Gold was Gold was 0.3% lower at $1,727 an ounce.

At 9am the FTSE 100 index of leading shares was 0.1% lower at 6,881 points.

WRITEDOWN, BUT NO RIGHTS ISSUE

Shares in defence company Babcock International (BAB) rallied 15% to 277.8p after the company said it would return the business to health without the need for an equity issue.

The firm delivered a cautious outlook on profit after flagging £1.7 billion of asset write-downs but laid out a plan to turn the company around without the need to issue equity.

The company also set out a plan to streamline its business by selling certain assets, anticipating proceeds of at least £400 million over the next 12 months.

Food delivery company Just Eat Takeaway (JET) said it processed 200 million orders in the first quarter of 2021, representing a 79% increase compared with the same period of 2020.

The UK was the fastest-growing segment and the company's main growth driver, with orders up 695% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021.

The Grubhub acquisition is anticipated to complete in the first half of 2021 and the company said it would continue to prioritise market share over profitability. The shares dipped 0.25% to £73.27.

Despite store closures due to the pandemic, sportswear retailer JD Sports Fashion (JD.) managed to grow its revenues by 1% to £6.17 billion while retaining substantially all its prior-year profitability with pre-tax profit of £421.3 million compared with £438.8 million last year.

The dividend was resumed and a final unchanged dividend of 1.44 pence was declared. Looking forward the company guided for pre-tax profit for the full year to 29 January 2022 to be in the range of £475 million to £500 million. The shares added 0.3% to 916.6p.

Real estate company Land Securities (LAND) said it had collected 67% of March-quarter rent but expected collection to improve as about 10% was withheld to finalise agreed concessions. The shares added 0.6% to 714.2p.

UPGRADES

Shares in recruitment company Hays (HAS) jumped 4% to 166.6p after the firm lifted its outlook for full year profits as improving fees and underlying cost management bolstered performance.

Fiscal 2021 operating profit was expected to be at least £85 million, ahead of the market expectations of about £61 million the company said.

March 2021 fees were 4% above March 2020 fees, although remained about 13% below March 2019.

Electronic products maker Electrocomponents (ECM) said it expected adjusted pre-tax profit for the year ended 31 March 2021 to be around the top end of the consensus range of between £171.1 million and £179.8 million, pushing the shares 1.7% higher to £10.37.

The company said margins in the second half of the year were likely to be lower than the first half due to continuing cost pressures in freight, a regional mix effect and inventory provisions.

Power-control component manufacturer XP Power (XPP) said revenues for the three months through March grew 16% to £57.1 million while orders were 1% higher at £73.7 million.

XP Power recommended a first-quarter dividend of 18p per share. It didn't pay a dividend for the previous corresponding period. Shares jumped 6.8% to £51.15.

Shares in healthcare services provider Totally (TLY:AIM) rallied 10% to 33.8p after it reported a rise in annual operating earnings that exceeded its original expectations.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the year through March were seen ‘substantially ahead’ of both management expectations and the historic underlying figure of £4.0 million reported in the previous financial year.

A list of FTSE 250 movers can be seen HERE

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account.

Issue Date: 13 Apr 2021