UK stock markets continue to drift sideways in early trade on Friday with little direction provided by corporate news on a typically quiet last day of the week’s trading.

Banks are popular with both Lloyds (LLOY) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) up more than 2% a piece, while private hospitals firm NMC Healthcare (NMC) and housebuilder Taylor Wimpey TW.) both sit at the head of the FTSE 100 leader board, up close on 3% each.

Going the other way is catering services giant Compass (CPG), albeit on nothing in the way of news. Shares in the £31bn firm slide 2.5% to £19.61.

At 9am the benchmark FTSE 100 index had inched up 0.94 points to 7.345.61.

UK ENERGY MARKET SHAKE-UP

In one of the more interesting developments today, energy networks and supplier SSE (SSE) has agreed a deal to sell its energy services business to OVO Energy for £500m. The deal will be structured via £400m cash and £100m in loan notes and will see around 8,000 staff transfer over to the new owner.

This will effectively end SSE’s operations in supplying homes and businesses with gas and electricity and make Ovo the UK’s second largest provider after British Gas, owned by Centrica (CNA), with around seven million customers.

Shares in SSE rise 1.5% to £11.83, up on recent £10 lows but far below te £16-plus heights seen in 2015.

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon (JDW) says its total sales in the year to 28 July increased 7.4%. Like-for-like sales increased by 6.8%, bar sales by 5.8%, food sales by 8.3%, slot/fruit machine sales by 10.3% and hotel room sales by 3.9%.

Profit before tax and exceptional items fell by 4.5% to £102.5m, including property profit of £5.6m.

JD Wetherspoon shares nudge 0.4% higher to £15.56.

Recruitment company SThree (STHR) added 2.2% to 300p after it reported a 4% rise in third quarter fee revenue, as a jump in contract and overseas revenue offset weakness for permanent positions, particularly in the UK.

Elsewhere, the US-based office provider WeWork is still trying to sell its shares on a US stock market but is having to cut its valuation to get investors interested. Talk suggests the valuation may need to be slashed from $50bn to nearer $20bn to get the IPO away.

Among the issues causing concern for investors is that the founder of the company has preferential voting rights over other investors and the Financial Times reports that talks are under way to curb to that voting power of co-founder Adam Newmann

GAN RALLY

Online gambling services provider Gan (GAN:AIM) rallied 20% to 87p as growth in the budding US waging market helped it deliver record earnings.

The company also said that although a formal sales process had attracted 'multiple' bids, none were considered high enough and it had decided to continue to go it alone.

Toys licensing business Character Group (CCT:AIM) slumps nearly 9% to 338p after warning on profit. The company blamed a number of headwinds in the second half of the year, including a weaker backdrop for the retail market in Scandinavia.

Pre-tax for the group for the year ended 31 August 2019 was likely to be in the range of £11m to £11.5m., below the £12.3m of the consensus previously.

Legal services firm Gateley (GTLY:AIM) said it had approved a cash and shares earn-out payment to Kiddy & Partners after the latter met performance targets. The previous acquisition deal means £1.25m will be paid to Kiddy founders, split equally in cash and shares.

Gately shares nudge 1.8% to 166p with investors evidently pleased with the implied performance of Kiddy to date.

Serinus Energy (SENX:AIM) is now flat at 8.75p, having jumped 7% in early trade, after it announced that it had made the final payment of $2.7m, plus accrued interest, on a secured loan facility provided by EBRD.

Ukraine-focused Regal Petroleum (RPT:AIM) was flat at 32.2p after it booked a 71% fall in first half profit, owing to it reaping a one-off gain from an impairment reversal in the previous year.

Revenue, however, rose 27% to $31.3m, and gross profit climbed to $13.9m, up from $11.9m.

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Issue Date: 13 Sep 2019