UK stocks move modestly higher in early trading Thursday, returning to the recently positive path after slipping back on Wednesday, its first reverse performance in six sessions. Stimulus hopes in China and easing concerns about the Japanese economy give London equities a boost, the FTSE 100 trading 20 points higher at at 6,629 in early deals.
Sir Richard Branson’s bank Virgin Money (VM.) starts grey market dealing on Thursday after its initial public offering (IPO) was priced way below previous hopes. The shares are priced at 283p, valuing the challenger bank at £1.25 billion, below the £2 billion previously muted. The bank will receive £150 million from the deal while unconditional trading starts on Tuesday (18 Nov).
Beer brewing giant SABMiller (SAB) gains 2% at £35.765 as investors raise a glass to resilient interim results and CEO Alan Clark's emphasis on its growing soft drinks business. Despite US dollar swiping $71 million off its bottom line and tough trading in China and Australia, the Grolsch-to-Peroni maker delivers top-line and earnings per share growth, powered by its Africa and Latin America businesses.
Broadcaster ITV (ITV) underwhelms despite revenue growth accelerating in the third quarter as the TV group continues to generate television advertising revenues ahead of the wider market. But the shares stay flat at 200.4p.
Private equity and fund management group 3i (III) rises 1.6% to 409p as its half year results show an increase in net asset value of 10p per share, a gain of around 2.9%. Results for the six months ended September include £324 million of asset disposals and chief executive Simon Borrows says a further £218 million has been generated since the period-end means the full year dividend is expected to be 15p.
The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is also higher after revealing first-half growth across all its business areas as it moves ahead of schedule to complete the acquisition of US index compiler and asset manager Russell Investments. The shares edge 24p higher to £20.49.
A number of stocks were trading lower after going ex-dividend, including Marks & Spencer (MKS), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) and, newly renamed Sky (SKY), or British Sky Broadcasting (BSY) as it has been known. The name change comes as the satellite broadcaster completes the previously announced takeovers of Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia. The price tag for the deal rises to £6.9 billion after a greater number of investors signed up for the German offer than expected, although the shares nudge modestly lower at 851.5p.
Quirky British fashion brand Ted Baker (TED) cheapens 22p (1.1%) to £20.63 on news second half margins will be slightly lower year-on-year due to an increased wholesale mix. Nevertheless, the running Shares Play of the Week's third quarter trading statement is solid, showing Ted was less affected than clothing peers by recent warmer weather.
Components and energy efficiency solutions supplier APC Technology (APC:AIM) is a strong performer among AIM stocks on Thursday after issuing an upbeat assessment of trading and future prospects. 'The board remains very optimistic as to the group's future prospects,' the update concludes, optimism welcomed by the market, sparking an 8% jump in the shares to 26.25p.
Falklands explorer Rockhopper (RKH:AIM) gains 4.6% to 74p on news of a phased development of its Sea Lion discovery in waters off the South Atlantic Islands. The operator of the project, Premier Oil (PMO), up 0.85% to 249.4p, says the cost of the initial phase will be up to £2 billion and unlike a full-scale development will not require a farm-out in order to be sanctioned.
Branded retail products minnow LiteBulb (LBB:AIM) brightens 1.7% to 0.89p on the acquisition of profitable stationery-to-party products maker Concept Merchandise. The deal is worth up to £7 million. Litebulb also confirms its confidence in trading ahead of the Christmas run-in.