The FTSE 100 surged 2% to 9,547 by early afternoon on Wednesday, regaining some of the heavy losses at the start of the week.

The export-sensitive index gained some impetus from a weaker pound after the UK government unveiled long-lasting restrictions to tackle a second wave of coronavirus infections that threaten to derail a fragile recovery in economic activity.

While helping investor sentiment was takeover activity, and preliminary manufacturing PMI data which delivered no negative surprises and met expectations for September.

CORPORATE NEWS

Technical products and services provider Diploma (DPLM) said it had raised about £194 million through a share sale, to fund its acquisition of Windy City Wire Cable & Technology Products.

A total of 11.1 million shares were placed in the offering, first announced late on Tuesday, at a price of £17.11 a share to raise £190 million. The company also raised £4 million from a retail equity offering. Shares surged 26% to £21.56.

In a trading update for the period 1 April to 23 September, safety products company Halma (HLMA) said it continues to expect adjusted profit before tax for fiscal year 2021 to be 5%-10% below 2020 and more weighted to the second half than in previous years.

Revenue trends had gradually improved since the end of its first quarter and order intake was ahead of revenue, albeit marginally down from start of April to 23 September. After eight years serving as chairman, Paul Walker will step down in July 2021. Shares gained 1.6% to £22.45.

In a separate announcement global information based analytics group RELX (REL) said Walker would succeed Sir Anthony Habgood as chairman in the first half of 2021. Shares took on 2.9% to £17.46.

Consumer goods group PZ Cussons (PZC) said a spike in demand for hygiene products lifted first quarter sales to 31 August 19% to £158.1 million with its Carex brand seeing strong growth. Despite the renewed business momentum, the company expected volatility and risk to continue as it invested into its brands and undertook a strategic review. Shares dropped 3.26% to 208p.

In a pre-close trading update convenience store operator in travel locations SSP (SSPG) said underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) losses for the six months through August were expected in the middle of the £120 million-to-£190 million range outlined in June.

The company said it had re-opened around 1,100 units, or just over a third of all of its units, which was ahead of expectations. However the unprecedented impact on the travel industry will mean it will make ‘considerable job losses in order to protect the business.’ Shares added 13.5% to 205.2p.

The global leader in the design, manufacture and supply of kettle safety controls Strix (KETL:AIM) reported half-year revenues to 30 June down 21% to £34.7 million and operating profits down 12.5% to £10.6 million.

The company said it had refinanced its existing revolving credit facility, increasing headroom to £23.1 million, which was negotiated with favourable terms. Reflecting the board’s confidence in current trading an unchanged interim dividend of 2.6 pence per share will be paid on 30 October. Shares slipped 2.78% to 230.9p.

Shares in employment agency Staffline (STAF:AIM) jumped 12.87% to 27.85p despite reporting interim revenues to 30 June down 17% to £435 million and pre-tax losses of £47.7 million.

The firm saw an ‘unprecedented surge in food supply chain sector demand’ including supermarket customers during lockdown, where volumes were 64% higher than expected between April and May, although it said this did not offset the impact of COVID-19 in other sectors during the first half.

The company said it remains on track to achieve a positive result for 2020 on an underlying operating profit basis across each of the three divisions. The company announced the appointment of current non-executive director Albert Ellis as its new chief executive, effective from the start of October.

Remote meetings and cloud communications company LoopUp (LOOP:AIM) reported first half revenues to 30 June up 43% to £31.9 million and adjusted operating profits up 664% to £9.2 million driven by the huge increased demand from people working from home.

The company said it is confident in its ability to drive attractive, sustainable and profitable growth, and intends to invest from its cash balance to maximise shareholder value creation. Shares jumped 8.86% to 239.5p.

Shares in national accident helpline company NAHL (NAH:AIM) surged 11.11% to 54p after it reported consultancy group Frenkel Topping (FEN:AIM) had approached it with a share-based takeover proposal.

NAHL said its board was considering the proposal with its advisers, while urging its shareholders to take no action at the current time. Frenkel Topping shares fell 0.73% to 47.16p.

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Issue Date: 23 Sep 2020