London’s FTSE 100 opened stronger on Wednesday, up 53 points at 6,120.72 early on as optimism that economies were recovering from the COVID-19 crisis offset concerns about rising political tensions in Hong Kong that have soured US-Sino relations.

Wealth manager St James’s Place (STJ) improved 4.7% to 917.8p on news it had boosted funds under management during April, with management also ‘encouraged by the robust gross and net inflows we have continued to experience during May’.

However, the company also cautioned that ‘the short to medium-term impact of government measures and economic volatility on our flows remains uncertain’.

M&G (MNG) was marked up 6.6% to 136p after the savings and investment giant assured it would pay £410m worth of dividends - comprising an ordinary dividend of 11.92p and a special payout of 3.85p arising from its demerger from Prudential (PRU) - on 29 May as previously promised.

The fund manager said it had demonstrated ‘strength and resilience’ in the first quarter of 2020 despite the negative impact on global financial markets resulting from the pandemic. It also announced the acquisition of Royal London’s digital wrap and wealth management platform Ascentric, a deal bringing £14bn of assets under administration.

Property developer British Land (BLND) improved 5.4% to 400.4p, despite reporting a £1.1bn pound annual loss due to a 26% slump in the value of its retail portfolio amid the coronavirus crisis.

Shopping centre owner Hammerson (HMSO) was 2.9% higher at 76.5p after David Atkins decided to step down as chief executive after a 10 year stint in the hot seat. Atkins will remain in position until spring 2021 at the latest, while the board conducts a search for his successor.

Soft drinks maker Britvic (BVIC) improved 1.5% to 731p as it prudently deferred the decision on the dividend until later in the year and served up higher first half profit as cost cuts helped offset a fall in revenue following nationwide lockdown measures that hurt out-of-home sales.

The Fruit Shoot-to-Tango drinks maker also insisted it has made a ‘robust start to the year’ and is ‘well-placed to navigate the challenges’ of COVID-19.

Elsewhere, Petropavlovsk (POG) plunged 6.6% lower to 23.5p as the Russia-focused gold producer booked a modest fall in annual profit after higher sales were offset by one-off expenses.

Pawnbroker Ramsdens (RFX:AIM) rose 7.1% to 151.5p on news of a 30% rise in annual profit as it boosted foreign exchange, jewellery and pawnbroking revenue, although Ramsdens didn’t declare a final dividend, citing COVID-19 pressures that have forced the closure of its stores.

FireAngel Safety Technology (FA.:AIM) firmed 2% to 13.25p after the home safety products play confirmed revenue in May 2020 is expected to be ahead of its revised expectations at about 55% of the pre-COVID-19 budget.

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Issue Date: 27 May 2020