London stocks retreat from yesterday's heady gains in early trade on Thursday as traders clear profits from resources and financials, with property issues of all trending lower. The FTSE 100 index slides around 20 points lower to 6,342, largely matching the mixed mood across Europe's leading bourses despite a modestly positive close on Wall Street overnight.
Corporate news is to some extent dominated by a potential shareholder revolt at oil giant BP (BP.), with some investors thought to be planning to vote against chief executive Bob Dudley's proposed 20% pay hike, which would take his package to more than £14 million a year. The group AGM is later today, with the share price off around 1.3% at 360.5p.
Elsewhere, luxury goods leader Burberry (BRBY) is friendless, off 7% at £12.55 after issuing another profit warning within its second half trading update. Burberry reports a 2% drop in retail like-for-likes for the half, with sales to travelling Chinese luxury shoppers in Europe slowing and US domestic demand remaining uneven. Boss Christopher Bailey says the market for Burberry's high-end wares remains challenging and warns profits for the year to March 2017 are likely to come in at the bottom of the range of analysts' expectations.
Maternity products purveyor Mothercare (MTC), a running Play of the Week on which SHARES has a short position, slumps 17.8% to 155p on a disappointing fourth quarter update. CEO Mark Newton-Jones flags some progress with the UK turnaround, but the international arm continues to suffer from economic and currency headwinds, with consumer confidence weakening in the Middle East and China.
Department store Debenhams (DEB), in the final stages of appointing a successor to CEO Michael Sharp, sparks up 3.5% to 80p on better-than-expected interims boosted by a record Christmas. The British brand reports 5.5% growth in taxable profits to £93.8 million, hikes the half-time dividend 2.5% to 1.025p and issues a relatively positive outlook statement.
Retail star turn JD Sports Fashion (JD.) firms 26p to £11.87 on record finals which extend its winning run of sports fashion like-for-like sales growth. Straight-talking executive chairman Peter Cowgill says the figures further demonstrate 'the increasing influence of the JD fascia in the UK and beyond' and issues a positive current trading statement.
Hays (HAS) continues a surprisingly robust set of trading updates from the leading London-listed recruiters, gaining 7.2% to 133p as it reports net fee income (NFI) growth of 4% at constant currencies. In the UK, performance was disappointing at -3% as the country's June referendum on EU membership weighs on hiring activity. Trading in the third quarter of Hays' financial year – it reports full year results to end-June – remains on track to deliver a debt-free balance sheet in the near-term.
Investors take profits in Optibiotix Health (OPTI:AIM) sending the stock 3% lower to 78.5p after the functional food ingredient and supplement developer posted an upbeat outlook for 2016 in its results for the year to 30 November 2015.