London stocks make modest gains in early trade on Friday as the market mulls over a busy week that included central bank policy decisions, a raft of economic data and the UK Budget 2016.

The FTSE 100 nudges 30-odd points higher to 6,229, with midcaps and smaller companies running higher by similar margins.

Foods-to-fashion conglomerate Associated British Foods (ABF) firms 15.5p to £33.94, investor interest piqued as ABF says talks over mopping up the remaining interest in its 51.35%-owned Illovo Sugar subsidiary, the largest cane sugar producer in Africa, are continuing.

Kurdistan oil producer Genel Energy (GENL) rises 10.3% to 87.4p as it announces a plan to reduce its borrowings by buying back at least $50 million worth of bonds.

Indian unconventional gas play Oilex (OEX:AIM) slumps 6.3% to 0.56p as it announces the resignation of managing director Ron Miller and his immediate replacement by independent non-executive director Jonathan Salomon.

Two new the IPOs make their AIM debuts today. Blue Prism (PRSM:AIM), a developer of software robots and supplier of the virtual workforce, is trading at 112.5p, sharply up on the 79p placing price. Billing, charging and customer relationship management software solutions provider Cerillion (CER:AIM) is also up on its 76p float price, trading at 80.25p

In the micro cap space, smart LED lighting solutions PhotonStar LED (PSL:AIM) sparks up 9.5% to 2.88p as the UK Intellectual Property Office grants the company its first Internet of Things security patent application.

Plastic and paperboard packaging manufacturer Robinson (RBN:AIM) tumbles 7.8% to 166p on revenue of £29.1 million in 2015, below analysts' expectations of £30.8 million. A large contract was lost at the end of 2014, it suffered from adverse foreign exchange movements and raw material (resin) prices were weak. It says the general economic conditions suggest a challenging year ahead.

Reports that life insurer Phoenix (PHNX) is set to bid for Deutsche Bank’s (DBK:DE) UK insurance arm Abbey Life has failed to excite investors. Shares moved 0.9% to 913.5p on the news.

Real estate investment trust Capital & Regional (CAL) rises 1.1% to 65.5p on buying a third retail property in Hemel Hempstead in less than two months. Fareham House cost £7.8 million and will be merged with Marlowes shopping centre and Edmonds Parade into a single property.

Issue Date: 18 Mar 2016