London shares are mixed in early trade on Thursday with blue chips lower on a selection of financials, property, pharmas, retail and utilities. There was a preponderance of miners among the top-100 ladders' fallers. Wall Street and Asia firmed overnight.
The FTSE 100 index slides 30 points to 65,116, with midcaps also lower, the FTSE 250 down 24 points at 16,567.
Wm Morrison Supermarkets (MRW) is marked down 1.8p to 200.2p as annual results show a 27% pre-tax profit fall to £302 million, albeit at the mid-point of the £295 million-to-£310 million guided range. Like-for-like sales (ex-fuel, ex-VAT) fell 2%, though there was an improving trend throughout the year with fourth quarter like-for-likes up 0.1%. Paying down net debt, Morrisons, which recently stunned the market with a wholesale groceries supply deal with Amazon (AMZN:NDQ), also pleases by increasing its working capital inflow and disposal proceed targets; CEO David Potts says new business opportunities should yield £50 million-to-£100 million of incremental profits.
London-focused hotelier PPHE Hotel (PPH) soars 11% to 720p on an 11.8% rise in reported revenue to €302.5 million, with normalised pre-tax profit up 25.5% to €41.2 million, driven by rising occupancy and a higher average room rate. The group is opening three new hotels and relaunching the extended Park Plaza Riverbank London this year, which will collectively add an additional 1,067 rooms.
Energy services business Amec Foster Wheeler (AMFW) gains 8.7% to 509.5p as investors give a thumbs up to a debt reduction plan announced alongside preliminary results. The company says it can cut its net debt - £946 million at the last count - in half over the next 15 months through internal cash generation and a series of disposals including its Global Power division.
Online casino 32Red (TTR:AIM) gains 3.3% to 162.3p on a record 52% rise in total net gaming revenue to £48.7 million in 2015. The group has made a strong start to 2016 with like-for-like net gaming revenue up 35% in the first nine weeks of the year and up 66% including the contribution from Roxy Palace, which it acquired in July. The full year dividend has been increased by 17% to 2.8p per share which is on top of the special dividend of 3p announced on 10 February.
Cinema chain Cineworld (CINE) gains 2% to 489.3p on a 48.1% rise in pre-tax profit to £99.7 million in 2015, driven by the integration of Cinema City and a very strong film slate. UK admissions rose by 2.7% and the average ticket price increased by 8.4%, resulting in revenue growth of 11.4%. The group says the film line-up for 2016 looks solid with family films like The BFG and Ice Age 5. It has appointed former N Brown (BWNG) finance director Dean Moore as interim chief financial officer.
Life insurer Aviva (AV.) rises 4.1% to 478.7p on a 20% operating profit gain to £2.6 billion in 2015, while the dividend was 15% higher at 20.8p. The company also met European capital rules with a 180% Solvency II ratio, which should help protect the business against an economic downturn.
Growth in Europe and the US helped estate agency Savills (SVS) lift pre-tax profits by 16% to £98.6 million in 2015. Shares moved 7% higher to 703.2p as the market also welcomed a 13% total dividend hike to 26p. The outlook for US and Europe is upbeat, eclipsing concerns over growth in its Asia and UK businesses.
Retail and small business bank Aldermore (ALD) advances 3.9% to 224.8p after making a record profit in 2015. Pre-tax profits improved 88% to £95 million during the year, while return on equity reached 19.7% up from 13.5%. This was thanks to lending rising by almost a third and costs falling to 51% of earnings from 60% in 2014.
Investors give insurer Hiscox’s (HSX) strategy in Asia the cold shoulder. Shares fell 5.3% to 923.2p after agreeing to sell its Hong Kong business to focus on Singapore and Thailand. The company expects strong growth in these countries.
Central and Eastern European branded spirits play Stock Spirits (STCK) slumps 5.5% to 144.4p on poor 2015 numbers, sales and profits heading south following another year of disruption in the Polish market.
However Magners and Bulmers maker C&C (CCR) fizzes 4.1% higher to €3.65 on a positive year-end trading update, flagging progress with cost reduction efforts and fourth quarter trading that 'provides grounds for optimism'.
Brickmaker Ibstock (IBST) publishes its first results as a listed company and despite strong free cashflow from operations of £69 million and net debt reduced to £145 million – less than 1.4x adjusted EBITDA – a slower 2016 start for UK brick sales into the RMI market has nudged shares 1.9% lower to 197.1p.