London’s FTSE 100 trades 18.5 points lower at 7,453 ahead of the Easter weekend with consumer goods goliath Unilever (ULVR) and tobacco manufacturer Imperial Brands (IMB) doing their best to lift the blue chip index, but having to battle weakness in household goods specialist Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) and miner Glencore (GLEN).
Unilever improves 89p or 2% to £44.67 as first quarter (Q1) sales beat forecasts, helped by better than expected volume growth from the Magnum ice cream-to-Marmite maker. Organic sales growth of 3.1% is ahead of the 2.8% called for by consensus and driven by 5% growth from the Dove, Domestos and Dollar Shave Club supplier’s emerging markets business.
Alan Jope-led Unilever also reiterates its full year outlook, continuing to expect sales growth in the lower half of a multi-year 3%-to-5% range with an improvement in underlying operating margin.
Price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com (MONY) is marked up 16.6p to 365p on news of a strong start to full year 2019, with total sales up 19% in the first quarter to March with a boost from increased energy switching. Investors also welcome the news that Moneysupermarket will return £40m to shareholders via a special dividend on 21 May.
Pest control and hygiene giant Rentokil Initial (RTO) scurries 2.9p higher to trade at 371p as CEO Andy Ransom reports a good start to 2019 for his charge across the piece. Ongoing revenue rose 8.9% in the first quarter, supported by strong growth in the pest control operations in both growth and emerging markets.
Imperial Leather soap-to-St. Tropez tan supplier PZ Cussons (PZC) perks up 1.2p to 194p on a short-but-sweet trading update. Reassuringly, this confirms profits for the year to May 2019 will be in line with the guidance given alongside PZ Cussons’ January earnings alert.
Also on the move is internet security firm Avast (AVST), which clips ahead 2.6% to 291.6p on a positive first quarter update highlighting growth in revenues and adjusted earnings and containing a confident outlook statement from CEO Vince Steckler.