London’s FTSE 100 firms 26.5 points to 7,653 on Wednesday, the blue-chip benchmark given a lift by weak sterling and its beneficial impact on the large number of companies that generate earnings overseas, such as miners and construction firms.
In corporate news, EasyJet (EZJ) rises 4% to £17.20 as the low cost carrier upgrades full year profit before tax guidance to between £550m and £590m, up from previous guidance of £530m to £580m following a strong third quarter and with a tailwind from the collapse of rivals and strikes at rival Air France. Despite severe weather and disruption from industrial action, total sales grew 14% to £1.6bn in the quarter to 30 June thanks to ‘robust’ customer demand.
Packaging giant RPC (RPC) reverses by 7.3% to 718.2p as chairman Jamie Pike warns ‘pressure on the company’s market valuation and differing investor views on the appropriate level of leverage is constraining the group’s ability to pursue some attractive opportunities for growth’, a comment which overshadows solid 5.8% first quarter sales growth to £965m.
Pike insists ‘your board is working to resolve this’, RPC now prioritising cash generation and the disposal of non-core businesses ‘with a view to generating increased capital for deployment in the business or further returns to shareholders.'
Also heading south is engineering conglomerate Smiths Group (SMIN), marked down 6.8% to £16.30 on what appears to be a profit warning. Smiths flags a successful return to growth in the year ending 31 July and will deliver a full year performance in line with expectations ‘with the exception of Smiths Medical’, the unit impacted by the temporary suspension of some of its products in Europe and the termination of two US contracts.
Mr Kipling cakes, Bisto gravy and Batchelors noodles maker Premier Foods (PFD), whose CEO Gavin Darby is under pressure from activists, softens 2.2% to 45.8p. Investors are unimpressed with a first quarter trading statement showing sales growth of 1.7%, marking a slowdown on the 3.6% growth reported for the year to March.
Gaming giant GVC (GVC) cheapens 27p to £10.80 as investors book profits following a good share price run. In the midst of integrating Ladbrokes Coral, GVC reports an acceleration in second quarter growth driven by good underlying momentum and a World Cup boost, sending net gaming revenue 8% higher in the first half. However broker Shore Capital expects more modest growth in the second half as GVC’s performance comparatives become tougher.
Packaging industry engineer Mpac (MPAC:AIM) slumps almost 30% to 153.5p on a warning full year profits will come in around £1.2m below market expectations, blaming Brexit-related uncertainty and cost overruns on two technically challenging projects.
Agriculture-to-engineering combine Carr’s (CARR) cheapens 7p to 158p in spite of management guiding to a full year result ‘slightly ahead’ of its previous expectations with both parts of the business performing well. Investors appear to be focusing on management’s cautious outlook comments on the potential impact of Brexit on Carr's agriculture operations.
Posh chocolates seller Hotel Chocolat (HOTC:AIM) sweetens up 8p to 354p on a tasty trading update covering the year ended 1 July. CEO Angus Thirlwell flags 12% year-on-year revenue growth to £116m and despite the well-documented woes of the wider retail sector, assures trading since the year-end is in line with expectations.
‘Customers are continuing to respond well to our luxury brand and lifestyle propositions,’ insists Thirlwell. ‘During the recent heatwave in the UK, our new Chilled Chocolat drinks, unique Chocs to Chill, Ice Cream of the Gods and improved Cocoa Beers have been very popular.'