The FTSE 100 starts the week on the back foot although it is still holding on to a position north of 7,200, down 0.37% at 7,210.16 in early trading. An uptick in the pound contributing to the weaker open.

Consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) reports a 65% drop in annual profit owing to one-off gains and expenses but underlying earnings are up as the company hit the top end of its sales guidance.

Investors are focusing on the latter as the shares rise 2.7% to £61.80.  Adjusted operating profit is up 8% to £3.36bn, while like-for-like revenue advanced 3%.

Convenience store owner McColl's Retail (MCLS) gains 13.4% despite annual profit more than halving and the dividend being slashed, after it suffered supply chain disruptions in 2018 as investors focus on a better outlook for the year ahead.

Miner Petra Diamonds (PDL) books a first-half loss as it encountered lower-quality gems at its Cullinan mine in South Africa, while announcing that chief executive Johan Dippenaar will stand down. Net losses for the year through December amounted to $57.9m, narrowing from a loss of $117.7m a year ago.

Petra Diamonds said Dippanaar would be replaced on 1 April by Richard Duffy, a former executive at Anglo American (AAL) and AngloGold Ashanti.

Educational publisher Pearson (PSON) sells its US K-12 courseware business to Nexus Capital Management for $250m.

The deal marks the completion of another major milestone in the company's simplification programme, Pearson says.

However, the structure of the deal is anything but simple as it involves an initial cash payment of $25m and an unconditional vendor note for $225m, expected to be repaid in three-to-seven years.

Perhaps reflecting this complex arrangement, Pearson shares slip 1.1% to 910.8p.

In something of a departure, bottling firm Coca-Cola HBC (CCH) acquires Serbia-based confectionery business Bambi from funds advised by Mid Europa Partners in a deal worth €260m.

Bambi, manufactures of a range of products including biscuits, wafers and savoury snacks was established in 1967.  The company's brands include Bambi, Plazma, Wellness, Zlatni Pek, and Josh.  Its main biscuit brand, Plazma, ranked first in brand recognition in Serbia.

Specialist engineering firm Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) says it has entered into exclusive negotiations to acquire Thermocoax Developpement from Chequers Capital, TCR Capital and other minority shareholders for €158m (£139m).

Paris-based Thermocoax is a designer and manufacturer of highly-engineered electrical thermal solutions for critical applications in high-added value industries. Spirax shares are flat at £67.

Flooring company Victoria (VCP:AIM) says it expects to post a rise in annual profit despite its strategy of prioritising market share putting pressure on margins.

The company says that for the year through March it expects to post an underlying pre-tax profit around 35% to 39% higher than the previous year's £40.8m, though this would still represent a short-fall against consensus forecasts. The shares are down 14.4% to 370p


Issue Date: 18 Feb 2019