London’s FTSE 100 finished Wednesday’s session down 0.04% at 7,337.35 points, so broadly flat on the day, the blue chip benchmark giving up earlier gains with the UK on the cusp of fresh restrictions designed to slow the growth in Omicron cases.

The pound weakened and travel and leisure stocks were under pressure as investors weighed the likely impact of new rules being imposed in the UK, such as home working and vaccine certification, to combat rising cases of the new Covid strain.

Across the pond however, stocks were on the rise after US drugs giant Pfizer insisted its Covid vaccine could be efficient under a three-jab regimen.

BERKELEY CATCHES A BID

Shares in housebuilder Berkeley (BKG) rallied 2.4% to £47.44 after the firm raised its profit outlook for the next three years on a substantial increase in home sales.

For the six months ended 31 October, pre-tax profit rose by 26% to £290.7 million year-on-year as revenue increased 36.3% to £1.22 billon. Revenue was boosted by a rise in sales to 1,828 homes, up from 1,104, at an average selling price of £647,000, down from £799,000.

Shares in fantasy games and miniatures retailer Games Workshop (GAW) dropped 0.7% to £96.90 after the company said higher stock delivery costs, staff salary hikes and unfavorable foreign exchange rates impacted first half profit.

Management have built a reputation for under-promising and over-delivering, but it was always going to be tough to beat strong comparable numbers from 2020. Higher freight costs have also been widespread for much of this year.

MAN GROUP MARKED HIGHER

Fund manager Man Group (EMG) was marked up 2.6% to 221.4p after announcing detailed plans to buy back shares up to a value of $250 million.

The share buyback programme will run from 8 December 2021 through to 7 December 2022.

Travel food outlet operator SSP (SSPG) ticked up 2.7% to 239.6p as the company revealed it generated free cash flow in the second half of its financial year running to 30 September.

The company, which operates the Upper Crust and Ritazza franchises as well as running sites for third parties like Burger King and Starbucks in airports and train stations, reported revenue at the beginning of the current financial year was averaging around two thirds of 2019 levels.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Specialist pharmaceutical products and services group Clinigen (CLIN:AIM) shot up 11.3% to 910p after it recommended a £1.2 billion takeover by European private equity firm Triton.

Shares in fintech payments group Equals (EQLS:AIM) surged 8.7% higher to 68.5p after the group reported results that ‘significantly’ exceeded full-year expectations as a ‘material’ international payments transaction for a large corporate client bolstered growth.

For the period from 1 October 2021 to 6 December 2021, revenue rose 105% to £11.6 million year-on-year.

‘This robust trading performance of the group further underpins the board’s confidence in accelerating momentum and maintaining growth moving into the final days of 2021 and into FY-2022,’ the company said.

Fast-fashion brand Quiz (QUIZ:AIM) cheapened 0.8% to 18.25p despite reporting a first half sales rebound and a return to profitability at the underlying EBITDA level, as the return of social events boosted demand for its products.

However, Quiz also warned the emergence of the Omicron variant is a concern and the potential for Christmas and other social events to be disrupted or cancelled ‘would be expected to negatively impact short term demand’.

And Synectics (SNX:AIM) ticked up 1.8% to 112.5p as the security and surveillance systems designer said trading in the year to November 2021 continued broadly in line with the board’s expectations.

Underlying results for the second half are therefore expected to show a modest profit, resulting in an underlying loss for the full year lower than that recorded in the first half.

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Issue Date: 08 Dec 2021