London’s high-flying FTSE 100 firms 18 points to 7,741 on Wednesday, buoyed by strength in natural resources stocks. Investors will be watching the market closely to see if a new record high can be set today or at least before the weekend.

Among the session’s main early risers is software giant Micro Focus (MCRO), marked up 8.4% to £13.75 on the news the earlier than expected signing of ‘an unusually large’ $40m licensing deal meant sales for the half to April won’t fall by as much as originally feared.

Luxury goods leader Burberry (BRBY) improves 1.4% to £18.28 as it beats forecasts with a 2% rise in adjusted operating profit to £467m for the year to March, reflecting a positive retail performance, cost savings ahead of plan and improved beauty products-related profitability. Burberry, led by Marco Gobbetti and which recently appointed Riccardo Tisci as its new Chief Creative Officer in March, also pleases by maintaining 2019 and 2020 guidance and launching a new £150m share buyback programme.

Elsewhere, men’s tailoring specialist Moss Bros (MOSB) rallies 4p or 8.4% to 51p on news trading has begun to improve following a disappointing start to the year which triggered a major profit warning in March. Like-for-like retail sales fell 5.2% in the 15 weeks to 12 May, an improvement on the run rate seen in March, thanks to improving stock availability.

Crest Nicholson (CRST) crumbles 12.2% to 433.8p on a warning full year operating margins will weigh in at the lower end of the 18-20% guided range amid ‘generally flat pricing’ against a backdrop of continuing build cost inflation. This overshadows the fact that the housebuilder delivered strong growth in sales and housing unit numbers in the six months ended 30 April.

Bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) perks up 70p to £78.30 as it confirms it is in talks over a combination of its US business with American daily fantasy sports outfit FanDuel in order to target the prospective US sports betting market.

Train stations-to-airports food and drink seller SSP (SSPG) improves 7.4p to 634.8p as investors applaud strong half year results with taxable profits powering 40% higher to £48.7m, some £3.2m better than broker Shore Capital’s estimate, driven by like-for-like growth, new contract wins and a standout performance in North America.

Restaurants and pubs owner Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) is marked down 8.6% to 251.6p after serving up a drop in half year profits, as margins were squeezed by higher staff, property and food costs and severe snow storms kept punters indoors.

Mitchells & Butlers, whose estate includes Harvester, Toby Carvery and All Bar One, had already told shareholders they wouldn’t be getting a half year dividend and dances around the issue today in terms of when the dividend will be making a comeback.

Marston’s (MARS) softens 4% to 107.5p as it swings to a half year loss after asset write-downs and reveals results from its pubs division were hit by snow this year, prompting analysts to lower their full year profit forecasts.

Automation software star turn Blue Prism (PRSM) gives back 18p at £15.40 on profit-taking after a stellar run. Following a strong first half, Blue Prism says it is on course to report full year sales ‘comfortably ahead of current consensus expectations’ of £47.5m and an in-line EBITDA loss of £18.9m.


Issue Date: 16 May 2018