London shares get off to a good start in early trade on Wednesday as investors mull signs of possible stabilisation in Chinese economic growth, offsetting some weak corporate announcements. The FTSE 100 index rallies around 40 points, or 0.6%, to 6,313, matching the solid progress on Wall Street and on Japan's markets overnight.
A rally at credit bureau Experian (EXPN) extends into a second day after results yesterday, sending shares in the Dublin-headquartered business 2.9% higher to £12.21. A number of analysts upgraded their targets though the majority of held or even reduced their price target on the stock.
But the bigger story on the company news front comes at beleaguered boardband and calls supplier TalkTalk (TALK). Its shares shoot up more than 12% to 243.8p as it posts half-year results ahead of expectations despite recording pre-tax losses £8 million versus a £15 million profit a year ago. Investors are relieved that the financial impact of its well-publicised cyber attack recently are not as bad as feared, the company putting the cost at £30 million to £35 million in full year 2016.
Energy group SSE (SSE) remains virtually flat at £14.86, investors shrugging off a deep slump in interim pre-tax profit to £230.8 million. That's a 27% decline year-on-year, but solid growth is coming from its renewables arm.
Supermarkets giant Sainsbury's (SBRY) gains 1.4% (3.75p) at 276.4p on slightly better-than-expected interims. Although like-for-like sales were down 1.6% in the half, with underlying pre-tax profit falling almost 18% to £308 million, CEO Mike Coupe says price cutting helped drive transaction and volume growth and the grocer's cost savings programme is ahead of plan. For more on the challenges facing Sainsbury's, read our article from October here.
Beer brewing colossus SABMiller (SAB) edges 1.6% higher to £40.39 as the board finally agrees terms and unanimously recommends a £71 billion takeover by Budweiser brewer AB Inbev (BUD:NYSE); to address competition concerns, AB Inbev has quickly agreed to sell SABMiller's interest in MillerCoors, the Grolsch-to-Peroni maker's US joint venture with Molson Coors.
Among the bigger movers, signs oil services firm Gulf Marine Services (GMS) is not immune from the problems facing its industry put pressure on the share price – down 9.7% to 99.3p. Although the third quarter update suggests 2015 numbers will be 'broadly' in line with expectations it also warns of modest pricing pressure and a $8 million forex hit.
Marketing and events firm Centaur's (CAU) Q3 update didn't act as a catalyst for the share price in the way we hoped – sending the shares down 11.5% to 64.2p. Revenue growth disappoints – with underlying revenues up 2% in the first nine months of the year – although efficiences mean profit expectations are largely protected.
Oil tiddler SacOil (SAC:AIM) crashes similarly, down 29% to 1.13p, as it flags a massive 55%-odd fall in earnings should be expecetd, to between £0.31 and $0.34 cents.
Inter-dealer broker ICAP (IAP) gains 6.3% to 502p as underlying profit-before-tax increases 17% to £101 million in the six months to 30 September 2015. More details also emerge on a proposed tie-up with rival Tullett Prebon (TLPR), down 6.7% to 335p, which involve a transfer of assets from ICAP to Tullett in return for shares in Tullett.
Mid cap oil firm Ophir Energy (OPHR) advances 6.3% to 100.3p as it finalises commercial terms with offtake partners for its liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Equatorial Guinea, Fortuna. The company also reveals 2015 spending will be at the lower end of forecasts and says it will reduce expenditure further in 2016.
Flexible film specialist British Polythene Industries (BPI) falls 2.4% to 720p after saying its end markets remain challenging and volumes are down year-on-year, although this is offset by a 5% rise in silage wrap sales and a margin recovery from declining polymer prices. The company has closed a site in Widnes and will consult on restructuring two other sites in Worcester and Sevenoaks in order to align capacity with current demand.