The FTSE 100 opened somewhat higher this morning as the UK public goes to the polls, with markets tentatively optimistic of a Conservative victory.

However, trading volumes were said to be low, and shortly after trading started, the UK’s benchmark index was up 0.25%, or 17.56 points, to 7,233.81.

POUND AND POWER PRICE HITS JOHN LAING

A big mover this morning was infrastructure investor John Laing (JLG), which plunged 10% to 354p after a decline in power price forecasts meant its net asset value (NAV) is set to be below what the market was expecting.

In a pre-close update for the year to 31 December, the group said a number of factors have affected its portfolio.

This includes a period of strength for the pound which negatively impacted the portfolio by £50m, the decline in power price forecasts set to make another £40m dent, and changes in macroeconomic and tax assumptions, set to have a £7m negative impact.

DIXONS UP AS LOSSES GO DOWN

Electricals retailer Dixons Carphone (DC.) moved 2.3% higher to 135p as it managed to stem losses in its latest half year results.

The firm reported a statutory pre-tax loss of £86m for the half year to 26 October, significantly reduced from £440m in the same period last year.

However, adjusted pre-tax profit was down to £24m, compared to £60m the previous year.

The company has maintained its full year adjusted profit guidance, while capital expenditure is expected to be lower year-on-year at around £200m.

Chief executive Alex Baldock the firm is ‘on track to deliver what we promised this year’, and its longer-term transformation also on schedule.

MIXED FORTUNES FOR BUILDERS

Meanwhile it’s been contrasting fortunes for some of the country’s biggest builders.

Costain (COST) plunged almost 20% to 157p after it slashed its full year profit forecast following a legal defeat on its dispute with the Welsh government over its A465 Heads of the Valley road project.

Full year underlying operating profit for 2019 is now expected to be between £17-19m, compared to £38-42m previously.

Balfour Beatty (BBY) shares had a better time this morning though, rising 4.6% to 241p as it expects its profit to be slightly ahead of expectations.

In an update for the period to 11 December 2019, full year profit was expected to be ‘slightly ahead of the board's expectations’, but broadly in line with last year’s £205m. Full year revenue was expected to be approximately 5% higher than prior year’s £7.8bn.

PZ CUSSONS BOSS RETIRES

Consumer products giant PZ Cussons (PZC) dipped 0.6% to 192p after announcing that chief executive Alex Kanellis will retire from the company on 31 January next year.

The company said a search for his successor has been initiated, with the process expected to be completed in the first half of 2020.

In a trading update for the half year to 30 November, PZ Cussons reported ‘challenging market conditions across key geographies’ had led to a decline in first half revenue and operating profit compared with last year.

But it did grow market share in the US, UK and Indonesia and also agreed deals to sell its Greek and Polish businesses.

GROWTH FOR OCADO AND MARKS AND SPARKS

Online grocery retailer Ocado (OCDO) edged 0.6% higher to £12.04 after recording 10.8% revenue growth in its Ocado Retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer (MKS), in a fourth quarter update.

Average orders per week rose 10.4% to 350,000, while average order size was flat at £104.90.

The revenue growth was in line with company guidance, but it was down on last quarter’s 11.4% growth.

SERCO SET FOR RECORD ORDERS

Public service provider Serco (SRP) rose 1.8% to 148p as its latest trading update flagged a record order intake of £5bn for 2019.

Full year revenue is expected to grow by 14% to £3.2bn following particularly strong revenue growth in the second half, while underlying trading profit is expected to grow by about 30% to around £120m.

In its initial outlook for 2020, Serco said it forecast continued strong growth with revenue of £3.4-3.5bn, while underlying trading profit is expected to grow by about 20% to around £145m.

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Issue Date: 12 Dec 2019