UK stocks trod water on Wednesday with the FTSE 100 index of leading stocks drifting back 12 points or 0.2% to 7.372.
High-street stalwart Marks & Spencer (MKS) was the star of the show after it unwrapped half-year results which showed the Food business beating the market with 0.9% like-for-like growth against forecasts of a 0.3% increase.
While Clothing & Home posted lower sales, as expected, October saw sales pop up by 2.7% suggesting that changes made by management since the start of the year are beginning to bear fruit.
Chief executive Steve Rowe was bullish: ‘For the first time we are beginning to see the potential from the far-reaching changes we are making’. Shares added 4.3% to 192p.
Food producer Kerry Group (KYGA) served up a short but sweet third quarter trading update with group sales up 3.1% on a like-for-like basis, led by its Kerrygold butter and Richmond sausages business where sales were up 3.9% on a like-for-like basis. Shares ticked up 0.2% to €110.80.
House-builder Redrow (RDW) released an upbeat trading statement, saying trading in the first four months of the year was ‘encouragingly resilient’ despite Brexit uncertainty and ‘relatively weak demand’ in the housing market.
Underlying net private reservations were up 2% by value, while the average selling price of its houses inched up to £389,000. Shares added 0.7% to 615p.
Cyber-security firm Sophos (SOPH) delivered what is likely to be its last half-year report before it is snapped up by US private equity firm Thoma Bravo.
Revenues for the six months to 30 September grew by 5% to $366m while billings also grew by 5% to $372m. However the group swung to a pre-tax loss of $1.5m from a profit of $26m the previous year as a result of restructuring and legal costs. Shares were flat at 572p.
Shares in property group Intu (INTU) fell 12% to 35.5p after it 'fessed up that an issue of new shares ‘was likely’ in order to shore up its balance sheet as it sought to combat slower letting activity and a worse than expected level of company voluntary agreements (CVAs).
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