London stocks slip modestly lower in early trade on Thursday with investors pausing for breath after a record-setting session the previous day. Property and retail issues dominate corporate news, while stocks going ex-dividend knocks market also.
The FTSE 100 is down around 5 points, or 0.08% at 7,092 in early deals, retreating from Wednesday's all-time closing high of 7,096.78. The index also set a record intra-day high of 7,111.72 during Wednesday's session.
Normally reliable multi-utility supplier Telecom Plus (TEP) shocks the markets and the stock plunges 21% to 770p after warning that profit growth for 2015 and 2016 will be well below market expectations as the Utility Warehouse-owner unexpectedly wrote down a large amount of unbilled customer debt. The company now anticipates reporting full year adjusted pre-tax profits for the year to March 2015 of £52 million to £53 million, about £10 million below previous forecasts.
Department store Debenhams (DEB) is bid 3.6% higher to 82.45p on better-than-expected interim results, with taxable profits up 4.3% to £88.9 million ahead of the £84.5 million consensus. The high street retailer's strategy to wean itself off promotions is gaining some traction, though the outlook statement is rather cautious.
Consumer goods colossus Unilever (ULVR) clips ahead 118p (4%) to £30.52 as first quarter trading exceeds subdued market expectations. Its good start to 2015 reflects emerging markets growth and favourable currency movements.
Premium alcoholic drinks giant Diageo (DGE) cheapens 2.1% to £19.26 on news of a soft third quarter, reflecting tough conditions in emerging markets and subdued consumer demand in some developed markets.
Record first quarter revenue at Plus500 (PLUS:AIM) helps shares in the trading platform advance 1.4% to 735p. Sales grew 35% to $82.1 million (£55 million) and customer numbers increased 63% to 32,880.
Among the bigger movers, minnow Madagascar Oil (MOIL:AIM) is up 96.2% to 10.3p as it receives development approval from the Madagascan authorities for its Tsimiroro heavy oil project. This will allow the company to sell the 100,000 barrels of oil it has stored up from a pilot steam flood operation on the field, build on existing production and potentially bring in a partner to help meet the costs of developing the asset. This news first broke at Shares investor evening last night, with CEO Robert Estill handing delegates a 'world exclusive'.
Petra Diamonds (PDL) plunges 10.7% to 164.6p as the diamond miner's annual results are flagged to miss market expectations due to poorer diamond grades it found at its Cullinanin mine in South Africa.
AorTech International (AOR:AIM), down 35% to 16p, continues to pursue a legal dispute against former CEO Frank Maguire who has made a counterclaim for alleged non-payment of expenses totalling $168,000.
Oilex (OEX:AIM), up 7% to 3.75p, says gross proved and probable reserves at the Cambay Field totalled 206 Bcf gas and 8.0 MMbbls of condensate. Gross unrisked contingent resources totalled 720 Bcf gas and 52.8 MMbbls of condensate.
Gaming software group GameAccount Network (GAME:AIM) falls 4.7% to 41p after swinging to a loss before tax of £2.6 million in 2014 from a pre-tax profit of £1.6 million a year earlier after it failed to secure a system sale and saw slower-than-expected growth in real money gaming in the US. Revenue is almost £5 million lower at £7.5 million.
Budget hotel provider EasyHotel (EZH:AIM) adds 3.1% to 84p on news it has acquired a freehold in Liverpool which it intends to convert into a 68-bedroom hotel at a cost of £3 million. It is expected to open in spring 2016 subject to planning consent.
Student accommodation builder Unite’s (UTG) plans for an asset boosting shopping spree has sent the stock 1.6% lower to 572p. Acquisitions will be funded from the proceeds of a planned £115 million placing. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.