The FTSE 100 got off to a strong start on Tuesday as the prospect of a majority Conservative government increased.

Seen as more business friendly, the Tories have a 10 percentage point lead over Labour, according to the latest ICM opinion poll.

The latest survey results also boosted the pound. While that is usually unhelpful for the export-heavy FTSE 100, the UK’s benchmark index jumped 0.6%, or 43.87 points, to 7351.57 in early morning trading.

The most noteworthy news of the morning came from budget airline Easyjet (EZJ), which flew 3.8% higher to £13.25, after announcing annual pre-tax profit at the top of analyst expectations.

While the reported £427m showed a 26% slump year-on-year, and reduced revenue per passenger down 1.8% at £60.81 – a key industry metric - investors had long anticipated tough comparisons. Easyjet also announced a reduced full year dividend of 43.9p per share for the 12 months to 30 September, down from the previous year's 58.6p payout.

Overall revenue rose 8.3% to £6.4bn as passenger numbers increased 8.6% to 96.1m.

Online retailer AO World (AO.) soared almost 9% to 62p as it narrowed half year losses to £5.9m, compared to £10.9m in the same period the previous year, with revenue up 16.3% to £470.1m.

It also said it would close its Netherlands business to focus more on transforming its German operations, adding that it is ‘fully committed’ to building German operations that would be a profitable business at around €250m run rate of revenue.

However, it didn't completely rule out the prospect of having to shutter its German operations, should efforts to boost performance fail.

Finance and admin outsourcing firm Equiniti (EQN) plunged 23% to 175p, despite a trading update in which the firm called its performance ‘reassuring’.

The market clearly disagreed however, disappointed as the firm said its full year underlying EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) will be towards the lower end of guidance due to ‘weaker higher margin UK corporate activity’.

But it did say annual revenue will be towards the upper end of market expectations, and maintained in its outlook that it remains ‘well positioned’ for further organic growth despite uncertainty in the macroeconomic environment.

Technology company Halma (HLMA) jumped 8.5% to £20.61 as it recorded strong half year revenue and profit growth.

Revenue for the six months to 30 September rose 12% to £653.7m, while statutory pre-tax profit was also up 12% to £105.8m, with earnings per share rising 14% to 22.4p. Its interim dividend also increased 7% to 6.54p per share.

The firm’s chief executive Andrew Williams said following the half year period, order intake has ‘continued to be ahead of revenue and order intake last year’, with the company on track to make ‘further progress’ in the second half of its financial year.

Home repairs business Homeserve (HSV) moved over 5% higher to £12.60 as its membership and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) businesses performed at the top end of expectations in its half year results.

That led revenue for the six months to 30 September to increase 13% to £457.7m, with statutory operating profit up 17% to £28.8m.

Going forward, Homeserve said the strong performance of its HVAC and membership businesses will give it more cash to invest in its New Markets and Home Experts divisions.

In addition, its $140m acquisition of US company eLocal is expected to add $5m to Homeserve’s full year adjusted operating profit.

Self-storage group Big Yellow (BYG) dropped 3.5% to £11.50 despite reporting a sharp uptick in first half profit thanks to a higher revaluation gain.

For the six months ended 30 September, pre-tax profit rose 56% to £95.8m and revenue increased 3.4% to £64.3m, with like-for-like revenue up 4.2%, driven by growth in its average occupancy and rate.

'The revaluation surplus for the open stores in the period was £55.7 million, with 43% of the increase due to the adjustment in cap rates and the balance from growth in the store cash flows,' the company said.

Pipe manufactuer Polypipe (PLP) fell 3.2% to 461p as said it expects its underlying operating profit to be 'just below' its previous expectations.

The company said trading in the four months through October reflected strong 2019 comparatives and short-term economic and political uncertainty.

Revenue for the 10 months through October rose 4.3% to £381.7m, though growth in the last four months of that period had slowed to 1.7%.

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Issue Date: 19 Nov 2019