London shares continue their downward trajectory in early deals on Friday with ballast provided by a blend of financial, retail and utilities stocks. The FTSE 100 index fades around 60 points, or roughly 1%, to 6,114, matching the Europe-wide trend of falling markets.
In corporate news, supermarkets giant Sainsbury's (SBRY) softens 3.9p to 272.4p and Argos-owner Home Retail (HOME) cheapens 1.2p to 164.6p as the pair announce a final cash and share offer, a £1.4 billion takeover that now has the unanimous recommendation of Home Retail's directors. For Sainsbury's, whose CEO Mike Coupe has successfully seen off Steinhoff International (SNH:SJ) to secure ownership of Argos, the deal catapults its non-food exposure forward and brings access to Argos' fast delivery network, while Home Retail investors will be happy with the 74% premium to January's undisturbed share price.
Royal Mail (RMG) shares dip 3.7% to 463p as management and the Communications Workers Union (CWU) dig in to negotiate a new pay deal following last night's expiry of a prior three-year agreement. A report in the Times says the CWU is aiming to reduce working hours, while analysts at investment bank Jefferies say each 0.5% change to wage growth at Royal Mail above 2.8% reduces the value of the business by around £690 million, around 15% of its market value. Unions are gunning for 3.7%.
Life sciences services provider Cyprotex (CRX:AIM) advances 6.6% to 97.5p as management announce a strategic review that could lead to forming a strategic partnership or selling the company. This follows a strong performance in 2015 where earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 457% to £3.4 million, fuelled by acquisitions and an investment in research and development. The company generated 169% more cash at £3.5 million than in 2014. A strong year was expected and the outlook is upbeat.
Irish bananas distributor Fyffes (FFY:AIM), the world's oldest fruit brand, ripens up 3% to 113p on the €98 million acquisition of Highline, Canada's largest mushroom business. For Fyffes, a running Play of the Week, the deal adds a new product category and is expected to enhance 2016 earnings by around 13%.