UK stocks dropped sharply on Friday as the sell-off in bonds continued to rattle global equity markets.

Overnight the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices fell by 2.5% and 3.5% respectively. That triggered the sharpest sell-off in Asian markets for nine months with Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropping 4% and China’s SE Composite falling 2%.

The sell-off spilled-over into commodities with Brent Crude down 1% to $65 a barrel. Gold fell 0.2% to $1,766 an ounce.

At midday the FTSE 100 of leading shares was down 104 points or 1.6% at 6,549 points with miners and energy stocks taking the brunt of the selling.

COMPANY NEWS

British Airways owner IAG (IAG) reported a full year pre-tax loss of €7.43 billion from a profit of €2.28 billion a year ago as revenue slumped on 69.4% to €7.81 billion.

The results reflected the serious impact that COVID-19 had on its business, with passenger capacity down 66.5% as governments-imposed lockdowns. Relief that the results weren't worse still saw the shares top the FTSE leader board up 3.3% to 192p.

Property portal Rightmove (RMV) reported a 29% slump in revenue to £205.7 million after the Covid-19 crisis prompted it to offer a discount to customers. Operating profit fell 37% to £135.1 million.

The company reinstated its dividend with a 4.5p per share payment, however the shares were among the worst performers in the FTSE, dropping 5.2% to 575p.

Engineering company IMI (IMI) said full year pre-tax profit rose 11% to £227 million even as revenue slipped 3% to £1.83 billion.

Following its decision to reset its dividend cover ratio, the company proposed a final dividend of 15.0 pence, down from 26.2 pence, taking the total dividend for the year to 22.5 pence, a decrease versus last year's 41.1 pence. The shares dipped 2.6% to £13.01.

Investment trust The Law Debenture Corporation (LWDB) reported annual returns that topped its benchmark.

For the year ended 31 December 2020, share price total return for 2020 was 12.9%, outperforming the FTSE Actuaries All-Share Index, its benchmark by 22.7%.

The company reported a pre-tax profit of £4.1 million, down from £131.4 million last year. The annual dividend was increased by 5.8% to 27.5 pence per ordinary share. The shares dropped 4% to 694p.

Insurer RSA (RSA) said full year group underwriting profit grew 36% to £550 million and operating profit was 15% higher at £751 million.

Personal Lines which are 56% of net written premiums achieved a combined ratio 86% and Commercial Lines recorded a combined ratio 97%.  The combined ratio measures the underwriting profit as a percentage of premiums written.

The company said the all-cash offer from Tryg was progressing and would complete in the coming months. The shares were unchanged at 675p.

Shares in Fund management company Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) gained 1.4% to 296p after it reported full year underlying pre-tax profit up 10% to £179.0 million as assets under management increased by 37% to £58.7 billion.

Growth was driven by increased performance fee income of £73.6 million compared with £7.9 million last year, prompting the company to propose a special dividend of 3 pence per share on top of the help 17.1 pence per share.

Also on the rise were shares in Pets at Home Group (PETS) which gained 4% to 398p after the company increased its full-year outlook after a strong performance in the fourth quarter.

Based on trading year-to-date, the company now anticipates full year underlying pre-tax profit to be approximately £85 million, ahead of January's guidance of at least £77 million which in itself was a 20% upgrade on its previous forecast.

Shares in infection control specialist Byotrol (BYOT:AIM) gained 2.8% to 6.4p after announcing it has developed and externally validated a new test for determining whether its cleaning and sanitising products have long-lasting efficacy against viruses in real-life use.

The day's best performer was David Beckham-backed synthetic cannabis company Cellular Goods (CBX), which surged 410% to 25.5p on its first day on the London market.

The company raised £13 million as part of its IPO that it said was 13 times oversubscribed. That gave the company roughly a £25 million market value at launch.

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Issue Date: 26 Feb 2021