London’s FTSE 100 firms 18.7 points to trade at 7,197.8 on Wednesday, boosted by share price gains from the banking and mining sectors, while markets across mainland Europe and Asia also take a step forward.

Supermarket J Sainsbury (SBRY) slumps 15.3% to 244p as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says its planned £7.3bn takeover of Walmart-owned Asda could push up prices and reduce the quality of service for shoppers. Sadly for Sainsbury’s, the competition regulator’s mooted options for addressing its provisional concerns include blocking the deal altogether or forcing the sale of a significant number of stores or even one of the Sainsbury’s or Asda brands.

In an angry response, Sainsbury’s states: ‘We fundamentally disagree with the provisional findings. These misunderstand how people shop in the UK today and the intensity of competition in the grocery market. The CMA has moved the goalposts and its analysis is inconsistent with comparable cases.’

Sainsbury’s says it is ‘surprised that the CMA would choose to reject the opportunity to put money directly into customers’ pockets, particularly at this time of economic uncertainty’, adding ‘we will be working to understand the rationale behind these findings and will continue to make our case in the coming weeks.’

Lloyds Banking (LLOY) ticks up 2.6% to 59.9p after reporting a 24% rise in statutory profit after tax to £4.4bn for the year to December, while also unveiling a combined £4bn dividend and share buyback that is going down a treat with the bank’s shareholders.

Shopping centre owner and manager Intu Properties (INTU) cheapens 9.4% to 107.1p after swinging to a full year loss, as a challenging retail backdrop and Brexit uncertainty hurt sentiment and reduced property values, while also cancelling the final dividend.

Diversified commodities producer Glencore (GLEN) gains 2.5% to trade at 310.25p after launching a new $2bn share buyback and unveiling an 8% rise in annual adjusted earnings to a record $15.8bn, despite a ‘challenging’ cobalt market in the second half.

Elsewhere, oilfield services equipment supplier Enteq Upstream (NTQ:AIM) gushes 26% higher to 31.5p on the news full year sales and underlying earnings are expected to be ‘materially’ ahead of its expectations thanks to strong growth in North America and the international drilling sector.

Electronics group Gooch & Housego (GHH:AIM) crashes 19% lower to £12.05 after guiding towards low single digit growth for 2019 due to falling demand for critical components used in industrial lasers for microelectronic manufacturing, particularly from China.

Private label household-to-personal care products supplier McBride (MCB) is marked down 29.2% to 92p after warning of a drop in full year pre-tax profit of around 10% to 15% amid higher raw material and distribution costs.

Also out of favour is fashion, furniture and wallpaper brand Laura Ashley (ALY), which softens a further 5.2% to below 3p on a warning full year results will fall short of market expectations. The retailer’s first half results reveal a lurch into loss on like-for-like sales down 4.2% amid falling revenues from furniture and decorating products.

And advanced materials minnow Haydale Graphene (HAYD:AIM) sheds 54% of its already-shrunken market value to trade at 10.5p after confirming speculation it is looking to place shares with institutional investors at a big discount to yesterday’s closing price.

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Issue Date: 20 Feb 2019