With the pound under increasing pressure as we draw closer to a decision on the Tory leadership contest and Brexit, this currency weakness weighed on UK domestic stocks including Sainsbury’s (SBRY) and Marks & Spencer (MKS) on Wednesday. Both retailers were among the top fallers on the FTSE 100 index, which fell 0.2% to 7,560, while the more UK domestic-focused FTSE 250 declined by 0.1% to 19,640.
Over-50s insurer Saga (SAGA) skipped 5.6% higher to 45.3p on the revelation activist investor Elliott has taken a 5.1% stake in the unloved business. Saga’s appointment of one-time Tesco (TSCO) Human Resources Director Jane Storm as its ‘Chief People Officer’ was also well received.
Housebuilding, regeneration and construction group Galliford Try (GFRD) gained 6.1% to trade at 648p on a positive first half trading statement. The group is on track to meet full year pre-tax profit expectations with support from ‘good housing demand’.
Chemicals giant Johnson Matthey (JMAT) cheapened 3.4% to £32.71 as it left full year guidance unchanged, but also said performance would be more heavily weighted to the second half amid flat sales in the first quarter.
Broadband provider TalkTalk (TALK) ticked 3% higher to 108.9p on an in-line first quarter trading statement revealing year-on-year growth in revenue and consumer average revenue per user (ARPU), underpinned by ‘very strong demand’ for faster and more reliable fibre products. Investors were also reassured as TalkTalk left full year guidance of ‘strong earnings before interest taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) growth’ unchanged.
Ambrosia, Sharwood’s and Bisto brands owner Premier Foods (PFD) firmed a quarter of a penny to 37.6p, investors underwhelmed by news of rather anaemic 1.1% first quarter sales growth with full year expectations left unchanged.
Sales of Mr Kipling, the group’s largest brand, grew 10% with a TV advertising campaign boost, although international sales were held back by slower sales in Ireland.
Elsewhere, posh chocolates seller Hotel Chocolat (HOTC:AIM) sweetened up 7.5p to 362.5p on a palate-pleasing full year trading update. The premium British chocolatier grew sales by 14% to £132m in the year ended 30 June, delivering strong growth across all parts of the business.
CEO Angus Thirlwell also insisted: ‘Our pace of innovation is relentless. In our drinks and ices range we are seeing the most prolific new product Instagramming in our history, with Billionaire’s Sundaes, Choc Shakes and Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Lollies generating lots of excitement’.
UP Global Sourcing (UPGS) advanced 15% higher to 83p on a positive trading update posted two weeks ahead of its 2019 financial year end. The value-focused consumer products distributor has continued to trade strongly since April’s half year results and now expects to deliver full year sales and pre-tax profits ahead of recently upgraded market expectations.
Indian online clothing platform Koovs (KOOV:AIM) strutted 9.4% higher to 8.75p on annual results showing continued momentum and a reduced adjusted EBITDA loss, as well as news of an exciting 104% surge in first quarter orders.