Property and casualty insurer Beazley (BEZ) continues to tumble following yesterday's interim results. Down a further 10% to 217p, investors don't like the 27% drop in pre-tax profits during the first half of the year. Analysts have questioned how the returns from Beazley's underwriting operations will perform in an increasingly competitive market. Yet Joanna Parsons at Westhouse reckons the company still has good prospects. She says: 'We maintain this is a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ market with no dramatic catalyst to drive pricing. The degree of new capital entrants is disappointing, but the key is whether margins remain good – plus rates never stay static forever. Once investors realise the pre-tax profit prospects are still good, the return on equity is in the mid-teens and the yield is attractive/growing, then Beazley should regain support.'
Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is down 0.9% to £16.79 after reporting a 2% increase in second quarter sales to £6.6 billion. The fall was due to several of its drugs coming off-patent and falling prices in Europe, although it has generated £3 billion net cash in the first half of the year. The group is under investigation over bribery allegations in China. Chief executive officer Andrew Whitty says it is too early to say what the impact it will have on the company.
Another exceptional second quarter for UK chip design champ ARM (ARM) sparks a 4% jump in the shares to 944p. That's an 18%-plus paper profit since we flagged the buying opportunity less than three weeks ago in Shares. Revenue for the three months to end June jumped 26% to £171.2 million thanks to 25 new mobile licence wins and seven for its Mali graphics designs, and we'll have more on this later. Mali success is largely behind another 6% slump for rival GPU chips specialist Imagination Technologies (IMG), down to 265.1p.
Engineering technology kit supplier Renishaw (RSW) takes a beating with belated 2012 full-year profits missing expectations by around £5 million. Fourth quarter revenues fell 12% year-on-year, while new product development exacerbated the profits squeeze. Investec expects to lower 2013 estimates and valuation, with the shares plunging over 6% in early trading, before easing to a 3% fall to £15.40.
TalkTalk (TALK) is surprisingly not yet a casualty of UK broadband wars with its 160,000 TV/broadband sign-ups showing plenty of subscriber appetite for football-less offers. Cutting customer churn to 1.4% in the first quarter sends a positive signal to the market, pushing the shares 1.8% higher to 247.5p. But Shares still believes the company faces a merciless battle with BT (BT.A) and British Sky Broadcasting (BSY), as we explained in May.
Budget carrier Easyjet (EZJ) jumps 4.1% to £14.44 after revealing a 10.5% increase in turnover. The groups says revenue per seat is up by 6.1% to £61.44 while passengers carried increased by 2.6% to 16.4 million.
The strong rally in Kingfisher (KGF) is halted with a 0.5p fall to 388.6p, despite the world's third biggest home improvement retailer posting a strong second quarter update. The B&Q-owner has bounced back from the cold and wet weather-depressed first quarter by reporting group sales up 5.2%, ahead of consensus, and like-for-like sales 2.5% ahead over the 10 weeks to 13 July. This includes a like-for-like sales rise of 2.5% in the UK & Ireland, versus a 4.7% fall in Q1, with its B&Q DIY chain benefiting from strong seasonal product sales.
Home shopping-to-sports merchandise firm Findel (FDL) surges 9% higher to 186p on a well-received trading update highlighting 'a very good start to the year'. Over the 16 weeks to 23 July, sales at the turnaround counter's biggest business, home shopping outfit Express Gifts, were 8% ahead year-on-year. Findel also pleased with news of 'much improved' sales and margins within its recovering education supplies business.
JD Wetherspoon (JDW) continues its bull run, up a further 6.3% to 711.5p as it finally achieves better operating margins. This has been the bugbear among the City for some time, so to see margin improvement could represent a significant turning point for the pubs operator.
A decent third quarter update helps to lift catering giant Compass (CPG) by 0.9% to 889.5p, yet analysts see no reason to get too excited. The general consensus is that the stock is no more than a 'hold' with the shares fairly rated on 18.3 times 2013 forecast earnings.
Bus and train operator National Express (NEX) inches up 0.7% to 248.7p despite the group revealing a 12% drop in pre-tax profit to £71.8 million for the six months to 30 June. A 10% increase in non-rail revenue was not enough to offset a 44% fall in rail revenues largely attributable to the closure of its East Anglia rail service.
Office and retail-focused real estate investment trust British Land (BLND) falls 0.4% to 616.7p despite management increasing the dividend by 2.3%. British Land has benefited from continued buoyancy in London and growing demand for retail space. During the quarter it made acquisitions totalling £512 million from the £1 billion in raised in March from a placing and disposals. Read our Plays of the Week story on the company.
Investors are spooked by what could be read as a negative outlook statement in Synectics' (SNX:AIM) half-year results, sending the shares down 3% to 402.5p. We've chatted to the management who reassure that the outlook should not be read that way, saying they are merely flagging up standard risks. The surveillance group wants investors to be aware that it is undertaking one of its largest and most technically-challenging system projects, so there's implementation risks. It also flags uncertainty over the timing of new orders, yet insists this has always been the case across its industry. Synectics is a running Shares Play of the Week.
Silverdell (SID:AIM) has broken its radio silence by revealing that one of its businesses will buy another subsidiary out of administration. The shares remain suspended until it can secure a new borrowing facility.
Depressed miner International Ferro Metals (IFL) jumps 13.9% to 10.25p as a production report gives hope the long-awaited business recovery could finally be underway. It is managing to generate cash despite reduced commodity prices, thanks to cost cutting and resolving operational setbacks. Nonetheless, there's been many false starts to the group's recovery, so investors shouldn't get too carried away by today's share price reaction.
It's the market debut for contracts for difference broker Plus500 (PLUS:AIM). The company has raised £50 million at 115p and plans to use the funds for marketing and to meet regulatory capital requirements.
Media rights group Entertainment One (ETO) rises 1.3% to 199p on the back of a reassuring first-quarter trading update that revealed revenues up 40% in the period compared to 2012.
Technology specialist for the life sciences industry Scientific Digital Imaging (SDI: AIM) increases 11.6% to 16.7p after a strong performance in the year to May. The company’s pre-tax profits are up to £213 million from £20 million a year earlier on a 6.9% revenue improvement to £7.7 million. The change in the company’s fortunes is the result of a management turnaround plan. House broker FinnCap says Scientific has returned to sustained profitable growth.
Professional services exchange Blur (BLUR:AIM) continues its rampant top line growth, with more than $36 million worth of business moving across its platform. But investors are concerned about the effect on losses and, vitally, cash burn, slicing 2.5% off the stock to 276.5p. That's still a staggering 236% up on its 82p IPO price in October, and 278% higher than Shares December story. Broker N+1 Singer remains convinced of a profits breakthrough by 2015, and you can read our interview with chief executive Philip Letts here.
Epiwafer technology developer IQE (IQE:AIM) accelerated nearly 3% to 27p after telling the market it will beat expectations in the first half. Wireless is getting a 4G boost while the acquisitions of Kopin and RFMD assets are making a big difference, while there is little sign of implied competition threat from QualComm (QCOM:NDQ), as Shares spelled out in March.
Norcros (NXR) slips 3% to 16p after the tiling specialist's interim management statement reported a 14.4% rise in revenues in the 13 week period to 30 June 2013. De-stocking among key UK retail customers was blamed for poor performance in the 13 week period which saw revenue up 15.1% on a reported basis but 9.9% lower than the same period last year, excluding bathroom tap and mixer shower specialist Vado acquired in April 2013.
Unconventional and conventional oil and gas play Falcon Oil & Gas (FOG:AIM) ticked up 2.3% to 14.2p after announcing plans to buy-out the remainder of its majority owned Australian subsidiary; the explorer currently owns 96.9%. This could make it easier for the group to secure a fresh farm-out deal for its Bentaloo asset after US partner Hess (NYSE:HESS) walked away at the beginning of this month.