UK markets open trading on Monday cautiously higher as a handful of positive corporate trading updates help offset worries over the big sell-off in China overnight. In early deals the benchmark FTSE 100 index nudges 0.2%, or 14 points, higher to 6,564, while mid caps put in a stronger showing, the FTSE 250 index rising nearly 0.35% to 15,980.
Stocks in Shanghai plunged 8% overnight as regulators clamp down on the financial sector with a swathe of new stricter rules on margin trading.
Supermarket Tesco (TSCO), up 3.42% to 226.55p, yesterday unveiled a range of price cuts and improvements to retake the initiative in a tough market. Marks & Spencer (MKS) and Sainsbury (SBRY) make lessor gains but are still on the up, helping push UK stock markets into positive territory.
Also jumping on the high street is chocolatier Thorntons (THT), up 2.5% at 81p. Having disappointed with a full-year profit warning before Christmas second quarter trading is much improved. Though sales to supermarket's disappointed, there's news of a strong retail performance, with like-for-like sales up 7.8% during December, boosted by demand for boxed chocolates, advent calendars and seasonal specialities.
Translation and content management technology supplier SDL (SDL) is finally showing some signs of operational improvement after three tough years. So despite a likely narrow miss on some 2014 forecast metrics, investors focus on improving profit margins and the wipig out of net debt, enough to encourage a surprisingly robust 7.5% share price hike on Monday to 441p.
Pub retailer and brewer Greene King (GNK) slips 0.3% to 784.5p on a 2% increase in retail sales over Christmas and the New Year. Chief executive Rooney Anand says trading outside of the festive period was more volatile with year-to-date sales up just 0.6%.
Recruiter Hays (HAS) adds 2.3% to 148p, driven by a bullish weekend statement on the UK economy from think-tank EY Item Club and the prospect of monetary stimulus in the Eurozone this week. Hays should benefit from its operations in the UK, France and Germany.
Online betting marketer XLMedia (XLM:AIM) rises 10.6% to 58.1p as it reveals 2014 numbers will beat expectations with revenues of at least $49.5 million and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of at least $16.6 million. We discuss the update in more depth here.
Business information and media play Centaur Media (CAU) gains 3.9% to 64.9p as it confirms it is on track to hit 2014 guidance and says it expects to be ahead of expectations in 2015 - with operating margins increasing from the current 14% to 15%. Chief executive officer Andria Vidler credits this to business restructuring being implemented.
Solid 2014 trading and improved cash flow see commodities cum energy trading software supplier Brady (BRY:AIM) rise 2.5% to 82.5p. The market is expecting 11% revenue growth to £32.6 million and a near 50% jump in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the year to December, to £5.7 million.
Premium cake-to-niche bread manufacturer Finsbury Food (FIF:AIM) bakes in an 8.6% gain at 63p on a strong first-half pre-close trading statement. This flags continuing strong growth through the Christmas period and positive early signs from the transformational acquisition of baker Fletchers.
Mitie Group (MTO) slides 0.9% to 271p on a Sunday Times report it is being shorted by city-analyst-turned-private-investor Matthew Earl. Earl has concerns over revenue recognition, acquisitions and Mitie’s liberal approach to ‘adjusted’ profit, according to the newspaper.
Infrastructure group John Laing is the latest business to jump on the IPO bandwagon. The public-private partnership (PPI) specialist announced its intention to return to public markets.
Genomic research specialist Horizon Discovery (HZD:AIM) gains 4.4% to 234p on rising demand pushing 2014’s revenues 7% above expectations. Prelims for one of Shares’ picks of the year are due April 15.
Franchised off-licence and convenience chain Conviviality Retail (CVR:AIM) puts on 2p at 130p on robust interim results and a strong Christmas trading statement. The Bargain Booze and Wine Rack owner reports a 46.7% surge in pre-tax profits to £3.2 million for the half to 26 October, while like-for-like sales rose 1.2% over Christmas in a competitive market.
Ceramic tableware maker Portmeirion (PMP:AIM) clips ahead 5p to 887.5p as news of strong fourth quarter, festive trading prompts Panmure Gordon to upgrade its price target from 840p to £10.80. The high quality homewares specialist expects to report 5% growth in revenues to more than £61 million for 2014, its sixth consecutive year of record sales.