Having enjoyed a strong finish on Thursday amid a big slide in sterling, the FTSE 100 softens 54.3 points to 7,301 on Friday as news that the immediate cliff edge for Brexit is being postponed drives a recovery rally in the currency. This is hurting companies deriving a significant chunk of their sales in dollars such as Unilever (ULVR) and British American Tobacco (BATS).

Pharmaceuticals stocks are heading south on Friday, sentiment towards the sector hit by the news Biogen has scrapped two Alzheimer’s drug trials, serving to highlight the high-risk nature of the sector. Biogen’s setback and the scale of its share price slump is spooking investors with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) cheapening 7.6p to £15.58 and AstraZeneca (AZN) softening 69p to £64.56.

Meanwhile Smiths Group (SMIN) skips 3.6% higher to £14.97 as the industrial conglomerate guides for a separate listing on the stock market of its medical arm in the first half of 2020. First half results show the medical arm remains the weak part of the group, with Smith’s pre-tax profit plunging 13% to £174m.

Rigid plastic and paperboard packaging play Robinson (RBN) sparks up 13.6% to 75p after reporting improved sales and profits for 2018 and guiding towards a better than expected step-up in profitability for 2019.

Packaging company RPC (RPC) reverses 7.2p to 791.2p as plastics maker Berry Global rules out sweetening its £3.34bn bid. Berry announces that its recommended 793p per share cash offer is ‘final and will not be increased’, disappointing investors hoping for a higher offer to come.

Academic publisher Pearson (PSON) perks up 3.1% to 861.4p as JP Morgan Cazenove upgrades the stock to ‘overweight’ and hikes its price target from 850p to £10.50.

Engineering company Senior (SNR) firms 0.2p to 210.8p on the news its aerospace arm has secured a contract with Saab to supply components for the Boeing T-X advanced pilot training system.

Henry Boot (BOOT) improves 1p to 261p despite unveiling lower profits for 2018 and warning 2019 will be a ‘challenging year’ amid Brexit uncertainty.

Far-sighted investors are focusing on Henry Boot’s growing net asset value, a 13% hike in the total dividend to 9p and John Sutcliffe’s rather chipper outlook, the CEO insisting ‘2019 has started well throughout the group and will see us delivering significant schemes across the whole spectrum of our strategic land, property investment and development, housebuilding and construction businesses.’

Fund administration services provider Sanne (SNN) firms 5p to 509p as investors applaud a 5.8% rise in pre-tax profit to £23.7m for 2018, driven by strong sales growth in the US and Europe, not to mention a 9.5% hike in the dividend to 13.8p.

Alternative financing specialist Duke Royalty (DUKE:AIM) firms 1.8% to 44.3p as executive director Charlie Cannon-Brookes splashes out £43,600 on 100,00 shares priced at 43.6p.

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Issue Date: 22 Mar 2019