London’s FTSE 100 got off a relatively decent start by 9am on Thursday, up 0.13% to 6,749 after rising 0.41% at the market open, building on the modest gains of Wednesday as the US awaited the inaugural address of its incoming president.
On Wall Street the S&P 500 closed at 3,851.3, up 1.39% as President Joe Biden addressed the nation, reportedly the biggest rise on inauguration day since 1985 when Ronald Reagan embarked on his second term in office.
In company news, Sage Group (SGE) jumped 5.7% to 605.7p as it reported a near 5% rise in recurring revenue for the final three months of 2020 and confirmed plans to ‘progressively increase investment’ over the coming year.
The Group’s recurring revenue increased by 4.7% to £408 million, supported by software subscription growth of 11.3% to £303 million. As a result, subscription penetration increased to 68% (FY20: 65%).
Pet supplies retailer Pets at Home (PETS) gained almost 2% to 411p after reporting revenue growth of 18% to £302 million in the 12 weeks up to 2 January 2021.
The group report a retail revenue growth of 17.5%, despite Covid related restrictions, as well as Vet Group revenue up 22.1%. Total liquidity as of 31 December 2020, comprising cash balances and undrawn portion of banking facilities, was £391.7 million.
Peter Pritchard, group chief executive officer, commented: ‘Against a backdrop of continued uncertainty our pet care model remains robust, with our performance during the third quarter testament not only to the advantages of our scalable omnichannel pet care platform and unique joint venture veterinary model.’
Sports-betting and gaming entertainment company Entain (ENT) dipped 0.7% to £12.61 as it reported a rise in fourth quarter net gaming revenue as strong online revenue helped offset the impact on retail performance as it shuttered its shops amid government-enforced restrictions.
The company also reported that Jette Nygaard-Andersen was appointed chief executive officer.
Meanwhile, FTSE 250-listed banking group Close Brothers (CBG) gained 1.8% to £14.44 as it reported growth in its banking and asset management businesses thanks to 'strong' loan demand and trading performance.
In banking, the loan book increased 6.5% to £8.1 billion from £7.6 billion reported 31 July 2020. The asset Management division generated annualised net inflows of 5.4%, with managed assets rising to £13.9 billion from £12.6 billion and total client assets increasing to £15.0 billion from £13.7 billion, primarily reflecting favourable market movements, the company said.
Brickmaker Ibstock (IBST) rallied 6.4% to 209.4p after it lifted guidance on earnings following cost cuts and ‘strong’ performance in the fourth quarter of the year.
For the year ended 31 December 2020, the company said it now expects to report adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, deprecition and amortisation, or EBITDA, ‘modestly above’ the previous guidance of £50 million.
Elsewhere, homebuilder Countryside Properties (CSP) remained almost flat at 207.8p as it reported a rise in first-quarter completions, in line with expectations, and said it plans to expand regionally were on track and progress had been made on separating its two divisions.
For the 13-week period from 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020, completions were up 17% to 1,280 homes from a year earlier, and net reservation rate was 0.53, down from 0.81.
Promotional products marketer 4imprint (FOUR) increased 4% to £23.50 as it expected profit in line with its expectations as the recovery in order intake continued into the final quarter of the year.
For the year ended 2 January 2021, underlying pre-tax for the full year 2020 was expected to be in line with the company's expectations, while revenue was approximately $560 million, a decrease of 35% compared with 2019.
The recovery in order intake continued into the final two months of 2020, resulting in order intake for the fourth quarter on a like-for-like basis of 70% of the prior year, the company said.