The UK’s index of its largest shares opens 1% lower as voting in a ‘too close to call’ general election gets underway. The FTSE 100 falls 69.14 points to 6,872 as uncertainty hits investors by the country heads to the voting booths.
The index hasn’t been helped by more disappointing news from Bradford-based grocer Morrisons (MRW), which is marked down 6.6% to 176.9p on a mellow first quarter trading update. The embattled supermarket's new CEO David Potts reports a 2.9% decline in like-for-like sales for the 13 weeks to 3 May, modestly better than weak expectations, and guides towards lower first half profitability versus the second half as it invests to build trading momentum. Morrisons, which goes ex-dividend today, also flags one off costs of £30 million-to-£40 million due to head office cost-cutting.
Upholstered furniture and floorings retailer ScS (SCS) slumps 24% to 166.5p on a profit warning just months after its stock market return. The self-styled 'Sofa Carpet Specialist' says full-year earnings will disappoint following a sales slump over the recent bank holiday weekends, blaming warm weather, election uncertainty and higher levels of discounting.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes (LAD) falls 1.8% to 104p on news Peter Erskine is to step down as chairman this year after six years. A search for his successor is now underway.
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) is 4% lower at 576p after reporting a 5% fall in first quarter pre-tax profit to £19 million due to labour cost pressures and tough comparisons resulting from the sale of the last remaining Glyndebourne condominiums. Revenue is up 8% to £189 million driven by higher hotel revenue from refurbished hotels, acquisitions and the opening of the Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel Tokyo last December.
UK shale gas play IGas Energy (IGAS:AIM) rises 2.8% to 29.55p as its farm-out agreement with private chemicals outfit INEOS completes. The deal, agreed in March, sees INEOS commit to almost £140 million of investment into UK shale projects. IGas also receives £30 million of cash directly.
Life sciences and industrial parts distributor Diploma (DPLM) opens 2.4% higher at 777p after a dramatic late sell-off at yesterday's close. The FTSE 350 stock appeared to drop close to 10% in the final few minutes of trading before recovering some of those losses this morning.
Engineer IMI (IMI) joins the growing chorus of firms flagging a 'second half weighting' to profitability as year-to-date performance disappoints. Investors do not like what they see, bidding shares 2.5% lower to £12.09 after the first quarter update.
Tiziana Life Sciences (TILS:AIM) rises 12.3% to 131.5p on licensing a stem cell agent from Cardiff University that targets aggressive tumour cells found in breast, pancreas, colon and prostate cancers. It will now develop the compound for clinical trials.