London’s FTSE 100 erased earlier losses on Monday to finish only slightly lower, off 0.2% at 7,032.85 points by the close.
The move came as most of the UK eased coronavirus restrictions, although airlines, pubs, and restaurants all lost ground amid fears over the Indian coronavirus strain.
The blue chip benchmark’s intra-day recovery from its lows arose in spite of a weak start on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 down 0.5% to 4,151.47 by 4.30pm UK time, while the domestically-focused FTSE 250 ended the session 0.6% lower at 22,214.14.
In company news, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) gained 0.7% to £13.80 as it reported positive phase two trial results for the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with French company Sanofi.
The vaccine showed 95% to 100% antibody development following a second injection in all age groups, from 18 to 95 years old, and across all doses, with what the company called ‘acceptable tolerability’ and ‘no safety concerns’.
The firm said a global phase three study is expected to start in the coming weeks. It hopes to have the vaccine approved by regulators and available to patients by the end of the year.
Gold miner Petropavlovsk (POG) perked up 2.6% to 26p despite swinging to a full-year loss for 2020. In the 12 months to 31 December, the Russian gold miner reported a loss for the period of $48.9 million compared to a $25.7 million profit in 2019. However, underlying EBITDA rose 32% to $350.7 million with revenue up 33% to $988.5 million.
Also impacting profitability was a big jump in the firm’s all-in sustaining costs of producing gold, which rose 29% during the year to $1,312 per ounce, though the miner’s average realized gold price did also rise 30% to $1,748 per ounce.
RYANAIR SWINGS TO BIG LOSS
Budget airline Ryanair (RYA) reversed 2.4% to €16.5 as it swung to a big full-year loss. Net losses for the year through March amounted to €815 million, compared to a year-on-year profit of €1 billion.
Revenue plunged 81% to €8.49 billion, as passenger volumes also fell 81%, to 148.6 million. Ryanair slashed operating costs 66% to €7.37 billion, while it continued to tout the strength of its balance sheet, which it again described as one of the best in the industry, and had €3.15 billion in cash at 31 March.
Looking forward, Ryanair said it was impossible to provide meaningful guidance. However, it stuck to a recent prediction that annual traffic is likely to be towards the lower end of its previously guided range of 80 million to 120 million passengers.
Ryanair also said it ‘cautiously’ believed that its likely outcome for annual profit was ‘close to breakeven’, assuming a successful vaccine rollout across Europe and easing of restrictions.
VISTRY, DIPLOMA UPGRADE GUIDANCE
Housebuilder Vistry (VTY) gave up earlier gains to finish 0.7% lower at £12.87 after upgrading its annual earnings guidance amid a rise in sales rates in the first half. Adjusted pre-tax profit for the year through December is now expected to be around £325 million, up from previous guidance of at least £310 million.
Technical products and services provider Diploma (DPLM) jumped 7% to £29.42 as it upgraded its outlook on annual performance following a strong first half that continued into the second half of the year amid a boost from acquisitions.
Robotic process automation technology company Blue Prism (PRSM:AIM) fell 7.2% to £10 after the company toned down growth guidance.
The Warrington-based company reported a soft annual recurring revenue run rate for the six months to 30 April, which means revenues are likely to be towards the lower end of the £170 million to £180 million range previously guided.
Guidance remained unchanged for losses, which are still expected to come in at around a £25 million loss this year.
Customer relationship software provider Cerillion (CER:AIM) jumped 9.8% to 670p after it raised its interim dividend as new business wins helped its first-half adjusted profit more than double. Cerillion declared an interim dividend 2.1p per share, up 20% year-on-year.
Ten-pin bowling alley group Hollywood Bowl (BOWL) softened 4.7% to 227p as it swung to a first-half loss after it was forced to close its business temporarily due to the pandemic. Hollywood Bowl said it was confident demand would bounce back, ahead of a further lifting of UK Covid-19 restrictions today.
Biotech Faron Pharmaceuticals (FARN:AIM) firmed 6.5% to 367.5p after flagging promising new drug trial data for Bexmarilimab, the company’s immunotherapy for difficult-to-treat cancers.