UK stocks dropped at the open on Tuesday as the fuel crisis sweeping the country showed no signs of easing. To make matters worse, Brent crude oil prices surged to a three-year high over $80 per barrel, pushing up prices at the pump, and UK and European natural gas price hit new records.

By 8.45am the FTSE 100 index was down 30 points or 0.4% to 7,035 points as weakness in miners and industrials outweighed gains for energy and consumer goods stocks.

COMPANY NEWS

Pennon Group (PNN), which supplies water to South West England, issued a trading update saying it continued to expect a doubling of base returns with costs being offset by higher revenues.

Echoing comments yesterday from United Utilities (UU.), the firm said it had experienced record demand due to a sustained increase in usage by households and latterly by businesses due to the ‘return to work’. Pennon shares eased 3.2% to £11.41.

Shares in bus and rail operator Go-Ahead Group (GOG) careered 14% lower to 878p after the company announced that the Department for Transport had decided not to renew its Southeastern rail franchise when it expires next month due to the mis-calculation of profits, handing it instead to the Operator of Last Resort.

As a result, the firm said it would delay the publication of its full year results and chief financial officer Elodie Brian would resign with immediate effect after 13 years’ service.

Plumbing supplies group Ferguson (FERG), which is now totally focused on the US after the disposal of its UK business in January, posted a 14% increase in revenues to $22.8 billion for the year to July driven by market share gains.

The firm continued to consolidate its presence in the US with another $355 million of acquisitions during the period and will ask shareholders to vote on shifting its primary listing to New York early next year. Shares edged 0.5% higher to £105.72.

Shares in Smiths Group (SMIN) rallied 3.3% to £14.08 after the industrial technology firm posted a 2% fall in underlying revenues for the year to July but said it saw a return to growth in the final quarter along with an acceleration in margin improvement.

The company also announced it had signed a binding deal to sell its medical division to ICU Medical for an enterprise value of $2.8 billion including $100m related to ICU’s future share price performance.

Soft drinks maker AG Barr (BAG) reported a 19% jump in first half revenues to the beginning of August thanks to strong volume growth as on-the-go sales recovered with the return to work.

As well as positive momentum in its soft drinks business the firm reported strong growth in its Funkin cocktail brand due to the reopening of the on-trade. Shares trod water at 540p.

Low-cost airline Easyjet (EZJ) revealed its 31 for 47 rights issue at 410p was only 93% subscribed, leaving the underwriters including Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs to find buyers for the remaining 21 million shares, or if all else fails take them onto their own books. Shares dropped 3.3% to 686p.

SMALL-CAP NEWS

Motor and property finance provider S & U (SUS) posted a trebling of pre-tax profits to £19.9 million for the half-year to July driven by a 35% increase in net new vehicle loans backed by record second-quarter payment collections. Shares gained 1.4% to £28.90

Specialist textiles maker HeiQ (HEIQ) reported a disappointing drop in revenues and gross margins for the first half to June against a strong comparable period last year, and a sharp fall in operating earnings due to a much higher cost base. Shares tanked 16% to 111p.

Shares in building materials distributor Lords Group (LORD:AIM) added 1.4% to 143p after the firm posted a sharp jump in underlying revenues to £179 million for the six months to June and pre-tax profits of £4.5 million against a loss of £0.3 million last year.

Online greetings card and gift seller Moonpig (MOON) reported strong trading over the summer with a continued ‘elevated’ level of orders, leading it to raise its full year revenue guidance to £270 million to £285 million, lifting the shares 2% to 367p.

Bricks and mortar card retailer Card Factory (CARD) also posted an increase in revenues in the six months to July despite footfall being below pre-pandemic levels as customers increased their spend per visit. Shares traded sideways at 60p.

Goldman Sachs-owned private equity firm Petershill Partners (PHLL) announced it would price its shares at 350p in a £1.2 billion float, valuing the business at £4 billion.

Investor interest is expected to be strong following the 25% surge in shares in rival private equity firm Bridgepoint (BPT) on its first day of trading in July.

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Issue Date: 28 Sep 2021