London shares stage a bounce back ahead of UK services PMI data later today with a stream of corporate announcements also driving investor interest. The FTSE 100 index rises around 33 points, or 0.5%, to 6,143.
Energy utility Centrica (CNA) slips 7.3% to 214p on a surprise decision to sell new shares to institutional investors. It plans to place around 350 million shares, which is 7% of its share capital, to pursue acquisitions on the back of its £200 million deal to acquire Denmark-headquartered energy trading business Neas. Centrica said two acquisitions have been identified, but analysts seem to believe a credit squeeze is what's really behind the cash call.
Telco BT (BT.A) rallies more than 3% to 454.1p after reporting a 9% rise in full year adjusted profits before tax to £3.5 billion and a 6% gain in revenue to £18.9 billion, boosted by two months' contribution from newly acquired mobile network EE. There is also details on future investment plans for the communications giant.
Software company Sage (SGE) dips 1.5% to 595.5p as the accountancy suites supplier reports a drop in first-half pre-tax profit despite a rise in revenue. More interestingly, the group announces a deal to buy a 20.7% stake in Fairsail, the cloud-based human capital management firm, strengthening its own human resources offer.
Bradford-based grocer Morrisons (MRW) is marked up 4p to 191.5p on a well-received first quarter trading statement showing like-for-like sales (ex-fuel) up 0.7% over the 13 weeks to 1 May. This second consecutive quarter of positive like-for-like sales for Morrisons, boosted by strong online and 'Food to Go' sales, is a commendable achievement given the tough and deflationary environment. CEO David Potts' efforts to simplify and speed up the business are beginning to pay off, like-for-like volume growth again strong, while Potts also reiterates his year-end net debt target of £1.4 billion-to-£1.5 billion.
Home and car insurer Esure (ESUR) gains 2.1% to 274.7p on premiums rising 15.5% to £151 million in the opening three months of 2016. This is thanks to a 17.1% rise in motor business and a 19% improvement in comparison website Go Compare’s income to £36.3 million.
Packaging group Robinson (RBN:AIM) tumbles 11.4% to 155p on a 10% drop in revenue in the first quarter owing to cheaper resin prices and lower demand for its customers' products. Resin prices are rising, which will reduce margins in the short-term before prices can be passed through.
In the small cap ranks, ceramic tableware maker Portmeirion (PMP:AIM) perks up 12.5p to £11.73 on the £17.5 million acquisition of Wax Lyrical, the UK's largest home fragrances manufacturer. A Lake District-based retailer and wholesaler of scented candles and reed diffusers, Wax Lyrical brings high-quality brands and 'Made in Britain' pedigree to the SHARES favourite; broker Cantor Fitzgerald Europe pushes through material earnings upgrades following this intriguing deal.
Growth Company Investor publisher Vitesse Media (VIS:AIM) leaps 54.5% to 2.12p as it unveils a boardroom reshuffle and reports trading in its new financial year 'has started well with good gains over the corresponding period last year'.
Five-a-side football centre chain Goals Soccer Centres (GOAL:AIM) adds 1.6% to 96.5p on news it will soon formally appoint a chief executive and announce the results of its strategic review. Current trading remains poor, with like-for-like sales marginally negative for the first 18 weeks of the year but the significant decline in last year's second half has been eroded.
A first quarter trading update at engineer IMI (IMI) says performance is in-line with expectations, helping shares gain 3.9% to 971p. Investors have been worried about the potential for more profit warnings from engineers because of weak demand from customers operating in oil and gas markets. Organic revenue growth at constant currencies is down around 5% year-to-date, with margins also weaker, management says. Benefits from cost cutting are expected to kick in in the second half.
Music rights business 7Digital (7DIG:AIM) as it ties up a contract with social media platform musical.ly and reveals its client i.am+, the technology company founded by musician and entrepreneur will.i.am, has announced it is now taking pre-orders in the UK for the Dial wearable 'smartcuff' device ahead of its launch on 13 May.
Expectations that demand for mortgages will fall in the remainder of 2016 sees specialist lender Shawbrook (SHAW) slide 3.7% to 281.2p. A 2.6% rise in property loans to £237 million in the three months to 31 March helped boost pre-tax profit to £22.3 million, the result of investors looking to beat April’s stamp duty changes for buy-to-let purchases.
A $0.50 a share special dividend failed to enthuse investors at non-life insurer Lancashire (LRE). Shares fell 4% to 522.7p on pre-tax profits almost halving to £26.5 million in the three months to 31 March, year-on-year. A tough underwriting market and investment income slumping to $13 million from $21.4 million in 12 months was to blame.
There was no word on profit in rival insurer Beazley’s (BEZ) first quarter update. Premiums were 7% higher at $583 million and its investments returned 0.7% at $29.6 million, compared to 1% a year earlier. The shares are up 1.9% to 335.7p in early trading.