Stocks get off to a better start on Wednesday on hopes that MPs will vote against a ‘no-deal Brexit’ in the House of Commons later today.

The FTSE 100 index of leading stocks adds 0.3% to 7,151 points led by BP (BP.), Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) and Rentokil (RTO).

Top gainer on the FTSE is Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) which rises 3% to 253p on news that Keith Skeoch has been appointed as sole chief executive with Martin Gilbert taking the vice chairman’s role.

The UK’s largest independent asset manager also reports full year results for 2018 although they are far from pretty with net outflows of over £40bn, largely from the GARS (Global Absolute Return Strategy) product suite.

Second-best performer on the FTSE is supermarket group Morrison (MRW), up 1% to 228p after reporting better than expected like-for-like sales for the year ending February and a further special dividend.

Revenues on a same-store basis excluding fuel and VAT, the measure looked at most closely by analysts, rose 4.8% driven by the wholesale business.

Litigation-finance specialist Burford Capital (BUR:AIM) is the star performer unveiling record 2018 results with operating profits up 23% to $354m and net profits up 25% to $328m.

Returns on the core litigation finance investment portfolio rose to a net 85% return on invested capital against 76% the previous year showing that not only can the firm grow but it can increase returns at the same time. Shares jump 9% to £19.85 in celebration.

Shares in infrastructure group Balfour Beatty (BBY) rise 3% to 296p after it reports a 10% increase in full year underlying pre-tax profits to £181m helped by a recovery in margins in the second half of the year.

Cash generation was mighty with a net cash position of £337m in December after paying down over 40% of its gross debt.

Meanwhile retailer Dixons Carphone (DC.) finds itself on the naughty step after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) imposes a fine of £29.1m for mis-selling of its ‘Geek Squad’ support service.

The FCA found that between 2008 and 2015 over £440m of ‘Geek Squad’ policies were sold of which a high proportion were cancelled early as customers found they had been mis-sold. Shares drift lower by 1% to 131p.

After returning to the market with a bang yesterday, recruitment firm Staffline (STAF:AIM) announces that its PeoplePlus division has won contracts worth £35m from the European Social Fund (ESF) starting next month.

These wins represent a 250% increase on Staffline’s existing £14m ESF contracts and means it is now the UK's largest provider of skills support for the unemployed with a 47% market share.

Shares add another 5% to 900p, closing in on their pre-suspension level of £10.

Investors in Manx Telecom (MANX) see their shares bid up 14% to 214p after the firm announces a recommended cash offer from Mayfair-based infrastructure investment firm Basalt.

The offer, at 215p per share, comprises 207.1p cash in hand and entitlement to the dividend of 7.9p which is expected to be paid in early May.

 

Disclaimer: The author owns shares in Burford Capital.


Issue Date: 13 Mar 2019