London stocks open on a mildly softer footing in early trade on Thursday with another mining rally failing to lift the UK market as investors continue to assess the impact of the UK Budget yesterday. A dovish US Federal Reserve maintained interest rates overnight.
The FTSE 100 index drifts around 4 points lower, staying roughly flat at 6,171, while micaps and smaller companies also struggle to find direction.
Miners lead early on, Anglo American (AAL) heading the Footsie leader board with an 8.8% jump to 536.3p, with the rest of the large cap sector plays following close behind. Payments firm Worldpay (WPG) is the day's biggest blue-chip faller, off around 3% at 274p. The company recently posted full year 2015 results.
Electronic components distributor Premier Farnell (PFL) declines 4.5% to 116p as management flags continued competitive pressure in key markets as well as weak general economic demand. Cost cutting measures should help offset some of these headwinds in 2016, interim chief executive Mark Whiteling says. Underlying earnings per share, excluding the Akron Brass unit sold for $224.2 million (£157 million) in April, was 8.2p, down from 10.9p a year earlier.
North Sea focused oil and gas company Enquest (ENQ) is up 17.2% to 17p as full year results reveal further reductions in operational and capital expenditure though its net debt still dwarfs the market cap at $1.54 billion. The company beats production guidance for 2015 with 36,567 barrels of oil equivalent per day and points to between 44,000 boepd and 48,000 boepd in 2016.
Alaska-focused 88 Energy (88E:AIM) gains 26% to 3.88p as it announces the success of its first phase of development on the Icewine field and announces it is commencing plans for a horizontal, fracked well to progess the project further.
Pallet manufacturer RM2 International (RM2:AIM) gains 5% to 36p on news Canada's largest retailer, Loblaw (L:TSX), has begun accepting its pallets in its supply chain network. RM2 will work with Loblaw to further implement a programme of pallet deployment in the coming years.
Window and door replacement company Safestyle UK (SFE:AIM) skips 8.4% higher to 291p. In its full-year results statement, cash-generative Safestyle flags a start to 2016 that is 'significantly ahead' of 2015 and says it will pay a 6.8p (£5.5 million) special dividend in June, on top of a 10.2p total dividend for 2015. We'll look at the news in more detail here later.
Quirky fashion and accessories brand Ted Baker (TED) ticks 4p lower to £29.46, despite better-than-expected finals fostering forecast upgrades. Pre-tax profits in the year ended 30 January grew 18.6% to £58.7 million on sales up 17.7% to £456 million, which does imply some slowdown of revenue growth in the month of January. The outlook also flags challenging conditions in Asia, though the region only represents 3.4% of Ted's business.
A 3.9% slump to 257p at publishing group and running Play of the Week Quarto (QRT) probably reflects profit taking after a strong run. There seems little in 2015 results to disturb the market. Net debt is down 10%, adjusted pre-tax profit up 18% to $14.1 million and the full year dividend is ahead 6% to 9.5p. Chairman Tim Chadwick, who was part of the turnaround of the group, is stepping down to be replaced by Peter Read (a veteran of accountancy firm KPMG).
Lifecycle management software minnow Sopheon (SPE:AIM) soars 25% to 89p as it swings to a full year pre-tax profit of $1.2 million. A year ago the company posted a loss of £1.5 million. Revenue was $20.9 million versus $18.3 million a year ago.
Car retail and leasing group Marshall Motor (MMH:AIM) is marked up 3.3% to 171.5p after motoring in with record maiden full-year results following its IPO last April. The running Play of the Week reports 21.4% growth in taxable profits to £15.8 million, underpinned by organic growth, improved gross margins and the benefits of recent acquisitions. There's also a confident outlook statement from CEO Daksh Gupta.
Higher returns, margins and capital levels in 2015 mixed with falling costs sees OneSavings Bank (OSB) shoot 11.3% higher to 282.9p. A 31% improvement in lending to £5.1 billion helped pre-tax profits improve by 65% to £105 million. A strong pipeline of deals with professional landlords also drives confidence.
Cough cold medicine developer Vernalis (VER:AIM) falls 12.6% to 51.7p on reporting an £8 million pre-tax loss in the six months to 31 December, compared to a £293,000 profit 12 months earlier. The cost of launching Tuzistra in the US and the country’s mild cough cold season have been blamed for the losses.
Arbuthnot Banking (ARBB:AIM) advances 2.5% to £13.34 on reporting a record £34.2 million pre-tax profit in 2015. A special dividend of 25p a share has been promised if the sale of Everyday Loans completes as expected. Its retail arm Secure Trust Bank (STB:AIM) moved 1.5% higher to £28.91 on the news.