A mixed day for corporate reporting leaves UK markets without firm direction in early trade on Wednesday as investors weigh Government intervention in defence contractor Cobham’s (COB) planned £4bn sale with stabilised oil prices.

There is also ongoing interest in what the US Federal Reserve may do with interest rates Stateside later today. Market watchers had been anticipating a cut but recent firm US economic data has called the cut into question.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index makes modest early progress, adding around 12 points to 7,332.40.

Cobham’s proposed £4bn sale to US private equity firm Advent International is to face the glare of a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation on national security grounds.

Cobham, which makes mid-air refuelling systems for military aircraft among other things, had won shareholder approval for the deal to go ahead but it now faces a probe by the CMA which will decide on whether the transaction operates, or may be expected to operate, against the public interest and should be referred to a phase two assessment, taking into account public interest issues.

Cobham shares remain largely unchanged so far, drifting just 0.5% lower to 159.6p. The Advent deal is worth 165p per share in cash.

FRANCE FALLOUT FOR DIY CHAIN

Struggling DIY group, Kingfisher (KGF), which owns B&Q and Screwfix, has reported a 6.4% fall in pre-tax profits to £353m for the six months ended 31 July 2019, compared to £377m in the same period in the previous year.

Kingfisher said that launches of new ranges and the implementation of a new IT system caused sales to drop in France.

Kingfisher sees its share price slide close on 2% to 198p on the results, although the stock has slumped from 266p since May.

Shares in car dealer Pendragon (PDG) plunged 11% to 9.7p after it published results showing it had plunged in to the red and axed its half year dividend.

The underlying loss in the half year was £32.2m, compared with a £28.4m profit a year earlier.

It will be a baptism of fire for new executive chairman Bill Berman, who is appointed today on an interim basis to replace outgoing non-executive chairman Chris Chambers, who will step down on 1 October 2019.

SIRIUS SLUMPS AGAIN

Sirius Minerals (SXX), which loss 50% of its value after admitting on Tuesday it was having trouble raising money to fund a fertiliser mine, has fallen again. The shares are down another 14% to 4p, having begun the week at 11.17p.

Science kit manufacturer Judges Scientific (JDG:AIM) says it will beat market expectations this year after a strong first half.

Shares in the company rallied 6.5% to £36.65 after unveiling record half year revenues of £40.2m, up 9%, and announcing a 25% hike to the interim dividend to 15p. Sales were strong in North America (up 33%), with China/Hong Kong showing improvement (up 5%), however the Rest of the World receded 8%.

Going the other way are shares in attractions software supplier Accesso Technology (ACSO:AIM), which slump 9% to 825p.

The fall comes after the company saw revenue below management expectations, though costs associated with the integration strategy were lower than originally anticipated, contributing to a lower than expected increase in the Group's expenditure base.

Revenue was down 6.8% from $54.4m to $50.7m.

Toys retailer Games Workshop (GAW) will tell shareholders that ‘trading is in line’ with the board's expectations and cash generation also remains ‘strong’ at its AGM today.

Shares in the business rise more than 2% to £47.84 with investors also pleased by a 35p per share dividend being ratified today.

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Issue Date: 18 Sep 2019