A hectic day for retail sector watchers sees investors respond negatively to downbeat festive trading updates from, and downgrades for, grocers Tesco (TSCO) and Morrisons (MRW). Analysts once again trim profits estimates for Britain's biggest retailer Tesco, 3.9% cheaper at 315.65p as a short Christmas update reveals a worse-than-expected 2.4% decline in UK like-for-like sales over the six weeks to 4 January.
Unloved Morrisons (MRW) is marked 5.6% lower to 240p as it hurries out news of a 5.6% fall in like-for-like sales over the six weeks to 5 January. That the Bradford-based supermarket continues to struggle, with 'hard discounters' Aldi and Lidl gobbling up market share, should come as no surprise. An imminent move into high-growth online grocery and expansion in convenience could drive a reversal of fortune in 2014, as Shares recently outlined.
Fellow food purveyor Marks & Spencer (MKS) is 1.4% down at 451p after delivering a worse-than-expected third quarter trading update to 28 December. While heavy promotions in the run-up to Christmas hit general merchandise gross margins, with like-for-like sales off 0.2% in the third quarter, discounts provided a boost in the eight weeks to Christmas Eve in this troubled part of the high street bellwether's business. Food saved Marks & Spencer's bacon with like-for-like sales up 1.6% over the quarter.
Bucking the high street doom and gloom is Greggs (GRG), baking in a near-8% gain at 480p. The sandwiches-to-savouries seller traded well over Christmas and New Year, cooking up a 3.1% same-store sales gain as chief executive officer Roger Whiteside's turnaround initiatives started to take effect. We look at the statement in more detail here.
FTSE 100 oil explorer Tullow Oil (TLW) gains 2.7% to 842.3p on rumours of a bid from Norwegian peer Statoil (STL:OL). The latter is examining takeovers that would allow it to diversify away from Norway while diluting the state’s $51 billion holding in the company.
The world's biggest set-top box maker Pace (PIC) has beaten expectations for 2013, sparking a 3% shares rise to 352.2p. Strong free cash flow helped wipe out net debt last year, a point Shares flagged back in October, and hefty future dividend increases are predicted by analysts.
Frankie & Benny's owner Restaurant (RTN) advances 1.5% to 604p as the leisure group reveals that full-year results will beat market forecasts. The running Shares Play of the Week says new store openings have traded very well. It expects to open between 36 and 43 new sites in 2014, that's compared to 35 new restaurants in 2013.
A pair of small cap gambling stocks please investors with bullish trading updates. GVC (GVC:AIM), a running Shares Play of the Week, rises 3.1% to 387.5p after revealing that full-year EBITDA (earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation) will beat market forecasts. NetPlay TV (NPT:AIM), one of our gambling sector report picks in 2013, says its full-year EBITDA will be at the top end of market expectations. That sends its share price up 1.8% to 21.25p.
After rallying since last summer, recruitment consultant Hays (HAS) looks to be the victim of profit taking on the back of today's trading update. Its shares fall 2.6% to 129p with its second quarter results showing the same trend as reported yesterday by sector peer Robert Walters (RWA). The UK and Europe are up; Asia Pacific is down.
Kurdistan oil firm Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP:AIM) gains 2.8% to 182.5p as it confirms that oil began trucking from its Shaikan field to Turkey in December. The first tendered cargo of between 198,300 and 215,000 barrels of crude will be loading at the port of Dortyol this month. Read our latest view on the stock.
Africa-focused oil and gas play Heritage Oil (HOIL) advances 4.5% to 162.25p as it reveals production from its OML 30 licence in Nigeria has topped 50,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd). The company's net production in the fourth quarter hit 13,300 bopd.
The reiteration by Investec Securities of its ‘buy’ call on Entertainment One (ETO) fails to move the media rights owner, even though at 291p it is a good margin below the broker’s 315p price target.
Strong second-half trading powers a 7.5% jump at mobile phones components supplier Laird (LRD), the shares tipping the scales at 304p, their highest in more than five years. Demand for iPhone 5S and 5C units plus more design-in wins with Samsung are helping.
After maintaining market silence for the past few months telecoms kit supplier Spirent (SPT) finally comes clean on progress, telling investors that it made $115 million of revenue in the fourth quarter to end December. That's down on the $120 million pencilled in by analysts, but it's the company's still gloomy view of the year ahead that hits the shares, falling 13% to 86.35p.
Grafton (GFTU) slips 0.9% to 647p after saying full-year revenues grew by 8% to £1.90 billion and operating profits will hit expectations. The group also highlights improvement in underlying revenue trends.
Specialist building products distributor SIG (SHI) rises 0.9% after highlighting a 4% jump in revenues on the back of improved trading with 2013 underlying pre-tax profit tax not likely to be less than the market consensus of £85.8 million.