UK stocks continued their downward slide on Wednesday as the coronovirus spread further in Europe and the Middle East and a US solider become infected with the disease. The FTSE 100 fell 53.3 points to 6,964.59 early on, making it the sixth day straight of declines for the UK benchmark index.
The FTSE 250 followed the blue chips into negative territory, shedding 192 points to 20,524.
While there is uncertainty over the impact of coronavirus on the business, chief executive Jon Stanton said he expects ‘further good constant currency growth in our mining-focused businesses to be offset by the continued challenges in North American oil and gas markets’, assuming underlying demand doesn’t change.
Chief executive Rupert Soames boasted Serco has ‘finally achieved escape velocity, leaving behind the gravitational pull of past mis-steps’. And with free cash flow significantly increased, Serco announced a welcome return to the dividend trail, recommending its first shareholder reward since 2014.
Alcoholic drinks maker Diageo (DGE) softened 2% to £29 after warning on profit following ‘significant’ disruption in drinks consumption in on-trade business in the wake of a rise in the coronavirus outbreak both in and outside of Asia.
The Johnnie Walker-to-Smirnoff maker estimates the negative 2020 impact on its organic sales and organic operating profit could be ‘in a range of £225m to £325m and £140m to £200m’ respectively.
Mining titan Rio Tinto (RIO) lost 1% to trade at £38.76 as it booked a 41% fall in annual profit, cut the dividend and warned that the coronavirus outbreak could have a short-term impact on supply chains.
Food and drink concessions business SSP (SSPG) cheapened 3.7% to 575p on a warning the coronavirus outbreak had taken a £10m-to-£12m chunk out of its revenue and reduced operating profit by £4m-to-£5m in February alone as footfall plunged at airports across Asia.
Gambling company William Hill (WMH) fell 3.5% to 170.4p after booking a second consecutive annual loss after it was hit by a £2 stake limit on fixed-odds betting terminals in the UK and slashing the full year dividend by a third to 8p.
Wagamama and Garfields owner Restaurant Group (RTN) fell 3.4% to 113.5p as it swung to a full year loss after writing down the value of its assets, citing ‘chronic overcapacity’ in the casual dining sector and higher labour costs.
Convenience retailer McColl’s (MCLS) slumped 15.3% to 36.5p as full year results showed a lurch into losses after various write-downs. There was also disappointment as the heavily indebted company suspended the dividend amid ongoing talks with lenders to ‘amend and extend’ its debt facility.