The FTSE 100 opened 1% higher on Tuesday alongside European stocks as the US and China signalled progress on the first phase of their trade deal. Vaccine hopes also played a part with US firm Moderna saying it is close to agreeing to supply the European Union with a least 80 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
In Asian trading the MSCI Asia Pacific index edged up 0.4%, Japan’s Nikkei 225 was 1.3% higher while China’s Shanghai SE Composite dipped 0.4%.
In commodities, Gold prices were 0.3% higher at $1,934 an ounce and Brent Crude gained 0.4% to $45.31 a barrel. On the foreign exchange markets the pound traded 0.3% higher against the US dollar to $1.31.
Pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca (AZN) announced the first few patients of up to 48 had been dosed in a first phase trial with a combination of two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in development for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
These are produced in the lab and designed to mimic natural antibodies. The treatment has the potential to be given as a preventative option for people exposed to the virus, and to treat and prevent disease progression in patients already infected by the virus. The shares ticked up 0.4% to £86.5, after rising strongly yesterday.
OTHER CORPORATE NEWS
Industrial software group Aveva (AVV) said it had reached an agreement on terms to acquire OSIsoft at an enterprise value of $5bn. Enterprise value is the total value of the business including all debt and equity financing.
The acquisition was said to strengthen Aveva's position in industrial software, with combined pro forma revenue of about £ 1.2 billion and adjusted earnings before interest (EBIT) of £330 million for the enlarged group, providing a 28% margin.
The deal is expected to be additive to Aveva’s earnings in the financial year ending 31 March 2022, before synergies. The shares initially added 3% to £44.7.
Heading in the other direction were shares in Marine service provider James Fisher & Sons (FSJ) after the company cut its dividend on reporting a plunge in first-half profit owing to a sharp decline in energy prices and the impact of the Covid-19.
For the six months ended 30 June 2020, pre-tax profit fell 59% to £7.1million as revenue fell 10% to £258.1million.
The company declared an interim dividend of 8p a share, down 29% on-year-on-year. The shares shed 5% to £11.7.
Still, DFS said significant uncertainty related to Covid-19 and the potential impact of Brexit made it ‘exceptionally difficult to assess the outlook beyond the short term’.
Investment trust Apax Global Alpha (APAX) reported first-half total return in net asset value (NAV) down 0.5% following a negative return of 11.9% in the first quarter of 2020 reflecting general market weakness.
Valuations strongly recovered during the second quarter at 13.3%, especially in the Private Equity portfolio.
The company declared an interim dividend of 4.87p a share, equivalent to 2.5% of the euro NAV as at 30 June 2020. Commenting on markets and the economy the company said ‘the recovery is unlikely to be linear and, for most economies, economic activity may not return to pre-Covid levels until 2022’.
Marketing group Next Fifteen Communications (NFC:AIM) said it expected to report a 16% rise in adjusted first-half pre-tax profit to 31 July 2020 to £2o million. It anticipated full-year results to be ‘materially higher’ than current market expectations. This is usually code for a beat of at least 10%. The shares raced up 14% higher to 421.5p.
A trading update from spend management company Proactis (PHD:AIM) outlined an expected 10% drop in revenues to £49.2 million leading to a 22% drop in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the year ended 31 July 2020, in-line with company and market expectations. The shares dipped 1.3% to 37.5p.