UK shares traded higher on Tuesday as risk appetite returned despite fears of the Indian variant dampening enthusiasm.

Overnight trading in Asia was positive with the Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gaining 2% and China’s SE Composite index 0.3% higher.

Commodity prices were higher with Brent crude rising 0.9% to $70.10 a barrel and gold prices up 0.2% to a three-month high of $1,870 an ounce.

At 12.30 pm the FTSE 100 of leading shares was up 32 points or 0.45% at 7,065 points with financial and consumer stocks posting the biggest gains.

CORPORATE NEWS

Telecom giant Vodafone (VOD) reported a profit for the year through March of €536 million, which missed analysts’ expectations, sending the shares to the bottom of the FTSE 100 leader board, sinking 6% to133.2p.

Looking forward, Vodafone forecast underlying EBTIDA for the current financial year of between €15.0 billion and €15.4 billion and adjusted free cash flow of at least €5.2 billion. The dividend was unchanged at €0.09 per share.

The company said it remained focused on driving shareholder value through deleveraging, improving returns on capital and a firm commitment to the dividend.

Pharma company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Quebec-based biopharmaceutical company Medicago reported positive interim phase II clinical trial data for Medicago’s plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Neutralizing antibody responses from the vaccine, tested in combination with GSK's pandemic adjuvant, which enhances the body’s immune response, were ten times higher than in people recovering from COVID-19.

Final phase III trials began on 16 March. The shares dipped 0.2% to £13.77.

STRONG PRICING, HIGHER DIVIDEND

Tobacco company Imperial Brands (IMB) reported a jump in first-half profit thanks to strong tobacco pricing and reduced losses from its next generation products including e-cigarettes.

For the six months ended 31 March, pre-tax profit increased to £2.06 billion from £785 million year-on-year as revenue grew 9.2% to £533 million.

The company increased the interim dividend by 1% to 41.12p per share. The shares gained 2% to £16.22.

In response tp press speculation insurance company Phoenix (PHNX) confirmed it was in advanced discussions for a potential sale of its European businesses.

It added that a sale would only proceed on the basis it maximised value for shareholders. Press talk put a value of more than £500 million on the assets. The shares gave up 0.5% to 726p.

DIVIDEND REINSTATED

Soft drinks maker Britvic (BVIC) reinstated its dividend and said it had seen ‘encouraging’ trading amid easing lockdown measures after first-half profit slipped on lower revenue.

For the six months ended 31 March, pre-tax profit fell to £42.7 million from £53.6 million year-on-year and revenue fell to £617 million from £698.8 million.

The company declared an interim dividend of 6.5p per share. The shares fizzed 1.6% higher to 933.7p.

EARNINGS BEATS

Shares in international sales, marketing and support services company DCC (DCC) reversed their early gains to trader 0.8% lower at £60.46 after it reported adjusted operating profit up 7.3% to £530.2 million, for the full year to 31 March, ahead of market expectations.

Strong working capital management resulted in ‘excellent’ free cash flow generation of £687.8 million, up around 40%.

Infrastructure firm Renew Holdings (RNWH:AIM) posted a 17% rise in first half revenues and a 16% rise in operating earnings thanks to resilient trading in its markets in the six months to March.

The firm also announced the acquisition of J Browne Group to bolster its existing water business, and reinstated its interim dividend thanks to strong cash flow generation. Shares climbed 4% to a hew high of 665p.

Shares in food producer Cranswick (CWK) leapt 5% to £39.00 after it reported a rise in annual profit, driven by new business wins and a boost from a new poultry facility.

For the 52 weeks ended 27 March 2021, pre-tax profit was 10.4% higher at £114.8 million as revenue increased 13.9% to $1.90 billion.

The company proposed a final dividend of 51.3 pence per share, an increase of 17.4% on the 43.7 pence paid previously. The company noted a ‘particularly positive’ start to the new financial year.

A list of FTSE 100 movers can be found HERE

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Issue Date: 18 May 2021