London markets make steady progress higher on early trade on Friday, apparently supplying an upbeat end to a mixed week for UK equities. Investors are likely to remain poised ahead of inevitable news likely from today's meeting of Eurozone finance ministers. The FTSE 100 index adds 40-odd points, or 0.6%, to 7,094, although midcap gains appear capped by a mixed bag of corporate news on Friday, the FTSE 250 nudging around 75 points higher,, or 0.4%, to 17,760.
Arguably the biggest corporate news story today comes from the high street as branded fashion retailer French Connection (FCCN) collapses more than 20% to 42.13p on another profit warning. This time the company blames tough high street conditions for disappointing first quarter figures, including Easter. Cantor Fitzgerald Europe's Freddie George downgrades his full-year pre-tax profit forecast from a £500,000 gain to a £3.5 million loss.
Dettol, Durex and Nurofen brand owner Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) rises another 37p to £60.38 on a positive first quarter update, with a good start to 2015 driven by its consumer health brands and a strong flu season. We highlighted the health, hygiene and home product powerhouse's qualities in our recent Perfect Share' cover story, which you can read here.
Among the bigger movers, micro cap digital streaming specialist Immedia (IME:AIM) is up 62.4% to 26p on news it has agreed a 12 month contract with BT (BT.A) to provide a 24/7 real time digital radio channel to its Openreach employees using a newly developed platform.
Rare books, historic maps and artistic prints trader Scholium (SCHO:AIM) slides 9.3% lower to 39p on its second profit warning in three months. After flagging sluggish trading and a likely profit shortfall earlier this year (9 Feb), Scholium today guides towards a £500,000 year to March pre-tax loss caused by lower sales of high value rare books to Russian and East European customers.
Clinigen (CLIN:AIM) jumps more than 10% to 582p as it unveils plans to buy peer Idis Group, creating the market leader in the ethical unlicensed supply of medicines. The deal, worth £225 million, will be part paid for via a £135 million share placing.
Data hosting minnow RapidCloud (RCI:AIM) rallies nearly 10% to 28.5p as it wheels out a newly won five-year contract with RedBox, the courier service of Air Asia. It will design, build and operate a cloud-based Logistic Management System (LMS) for RedBox.
Publisher of the Financial Times and education products provider Pearson (PSON) slips 0.9% to £13.89 despite confirming expectations that it will post its highest annual profits since 2012 in 2015. The company also reveals chairman Glen Moreno is to stand down in the next 12 months.
Oil producer Ithaca Energy (IAE:AIM) is up 4.4% to 51.7p as it confirms it will net $30 million from the sale of its Norwegian exploration assets. The funds will be used to pay down debt. Read our web exclusive.
Falling investment in oil and gas exploration and production hits electronic valve manufacturer Rotork's (ROR) order book and sales. Shares open 3.2% lower at £23.54 after a first quarter update says revenue is 6.7% lower than the same period last year and 12.6% lower on an organic, constant currency basis.
Security technology business Digital Barriers (DGB:AIM) rises more than 4% to 36p as investors are reassured over full year trading. In line with guidance given in February, the company sees revenues modestly ahead of the prior year although it stubbornly refuses to turn losses into profit.