UK markets open softer on Wednesday as with the FTSE 100 large-cap index easing back by 0.2% to 7,245 while the FTSE 250 mid-caps eases by 0.1% to 19,434. Most sectors are in the red bar Miners and Oil Producers with Food Retailers and Utilities each giving up over 1%.

Tobacco giant Imperial Brands (IMB) reports a solid first half performance with net revenues up 2.5% to £3.66bn despite a 6.9% drop in tobacco volumes as higher prices and New Generation Products contribute to sales.

Volumes were impacted by shipment timings but a 6.5% increase in price mix helped boost revenues and margins while Imperial’s blu vape product is now the market leader in several European countries and Japan.

Still, investors are unmoved with the shares drifting off 2% to £22.84.

Broadcaster ITV (ITV) delivers a mixed first quarter trading update with growth at ITV Studios and video-on-demand offset by a 7% drop in advertising due to the timing of Easter and political uncertainty at the start of the year.

On a positive note its share of viewing rose 4% during the quarter and the Studios business has secured £120m more in revenues than in the same period a year ago. Again investors are unimpressed marking the stock down 2% to 129p.

Shares in insurer Direct Line (DLG) also give up 2% after the firm issues a downbeat first quarter update with new motor premiums falling 4.2% as it took on fewer risky customers at lower prices.

Echoing rival Hastings Group (HSTG), the insurer points to claims inflation hitting the top end of its forecasts due to the continuation of higher third-party property damage costs.

Builders merchant Travis Perkins (TPK) reports a positive start to the year with like for like sales up 7.3% helped by accelerating growth at Toolstation where sales grew 25% year on year.

Just as they did after the last update, shares top the FTSE 350 leader board again up 3.6% to £14.59.

Rival merchant Grafton Group (GFTU) has also had a decent start to the year with like for like sales up 6.1% driven by a 10.7% increase in turnover in Ireland. Shares also respond favourably, adding 2.5% to 891p.

Specialist building materials supplier SIG (SHI) trades sideways at 143p after it  reports a 2.6% fall in like for like revenues for the first four months of the year.

Sales at the downsized Distribution business fell 15% on a like for like basis due to ‘weak market conditions’, although lower costs and better pricing helped lift margins.

Pub group JD Wetherspoon (JDW) announces that trading in the third quarter to the end of April saw an acceleration in like for like sales to 7.6% from 6.3% in the first half as it continues to pull in the punters with its cheap food and drink offering.

However a lack of raised full year guidance sees the shares shed 4% to £12.86.

Car dealer Vertu Motors (VTU) delivers a strong set of full year results for the year to 28 February with profits and cash generation ahead of the company’s targets thanks to 11.6% like for like growth in used car revenues. Shares edge up 1% to 35.4p.

Challenger law firm Keystone (KEYS:AIM) unveils a maiden set of full year results which comfortably beat expectations with revenues up 35% to £42.7m and pre-tax profits up 57% to £5.1m.

Having gained over 40% this year the shares take a breather, slipping 3% to 490p.


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Issue Date: 08 May 2019