UK stocks moved back into positive territory on Monday after opening lower following a two-week winning streak triggered by Boris Johnson's election win.

At just after 10am, the benchmark FTSE 100 index moved up 15.61 points, or 0.2%, to 5,597.72, having risen 4% since 12 December.

Trading volumes are likely to be low given the shortened trading week so investors should read less into movements in the indices between now and the year-end.

NMC BOUNCES BACK

Hospital operator NMC Health (NMC) jumped 25% to £16.25 after it announced it would commence an independent review to assess criticisms of its balance sheet by hedge fund and short-seller Muddy Waters.

The firm’s share price tumbled last week after Muddy Waters, which targeted Burford Capital earlier this year, published a scathing report on NMC highlighting concerns about the firm’s asset values, cash balance, reported profits and reported debt levels.

NMC said its independent review would be conducted by an outside accounting firm and overseen by a committee comprising independent non-executive directors of the company.

'We are confident that this review, when complete, will be entirely confirmatory of the disclosures provided by the company to date,' the firm said.

BHP DOWN AS CEO RETIRES EARLY

Mining titan BHP (BHP) fell 1% to £17.77 after announcing that chief executive Andrew Mackenzie would retire at the end of March, three months earlier than previously planned.

BHP said that Mackenzie and his replacement, Mike Henry, were confident the CEO transition was proceeding well and ahead of schedule.

Mackenzie had been CEO since 2013 and oversaw the massive demerger of South32 in 2015. He also played a prominent part in BHP’s $400m plan to help mitigate its climate impact. BHP is a major thermal-coal and petroleum producer.

PHARMA GIANTS DIP AS REGULATORS RESPOND

Pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) shed 0.9% to £17.97 on confirming that its ViiV Healthcare joint venture with Pfizer of the US and Shionogi of Japan had received a so-called complete response letter from the US Food and Drug Administration rejecting an HIV treatment.

Rival drug company AstraZeneca (AZN) dropped 0.9% to £77.39 even as its triple combination therapy for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease gained regulatory approval in China.

MID-CAP MOVERS

Defence contractor Cobham (COB) rose 0.4% to 164p after the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday approved its proposed £4bn takeover by US private equity firm Advent.

Cordial retailer Nichols (NICL), which owns the Vimto brand, slumped 13% to £14.71 as it warned that profits in 2020 could be 'materially impacted' by new excise taxes on sweetened drinks in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Derwent London (DLN) gained 0.9% to £38.82 after it swapped contracts to sell its long leasehold interest in a London office property to Deka Immobilien for £121.3m.

Real estate portal OnTheMarket (OTMP) shed 1.3% to 75p as it agreed to acquire a 20% initial share in Glanty, the owner of an automated portal for the lettings industry, for £0.80m, and said it would raise £3.4m from a placing at 70p a share.

OnTheMarket also agreed an option to acquire the remaining 80% of Glanty, for an initial sum of £1.5m, plus earnout payments of up to £12m.

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Issue Date: 23 Dec 2019