London shares lose early momentum as investor confidence ebbs away despite a string of positive corporate earnings announcements. The FTSE 100 index reverses initial modest gains to slide around 20 points, or 0.3%, lower to 6,275, although smaller companies manage to buck the weak trend, just, the FTSE Small Cap index nudging 0.1% up at 4,611.
Credit bureau Experian (EXPN) tops the Footsie leader board on Tuesday, jumping 5.7% to £11.67, despite strong foreign exchange headwinds which see underlying revenues drop 6% in the six months to 30 September 2015. It proposes a 2% increase in its interim dividend and extends its share buyback programme by additional $200 million (£133 million).
Energy distribution network National Grid (NG.) advances 2% to 915.1p after announcing strong first half earnings growth. The group also confirms rumours that it has begun to look at potentially selling a majority stake in its gas distribution business and returning the proceeds to shareholders via a likely special dividend.
Bisto, Oxo and Mr. Kipling cake maker Premier Foods (PFD) powers ahead 6.25p (17.5%) to 42p on strong half-year results, showing a welcome return to branded sales growth and a tasty turn from sweet treats. CEO Gavin Darby also pleases by announcing a partnership with renowned baker Paul Hollywood to launch a range of premium home-baking products.
Free-to-air broadcaster ITV (ITV) is up 1.2% to 259.9p on a well received set of third quarter numbers. These show revenues up 13% to £2.04 billion for the first nine months of 2015, with the company saying it is on track for ‘strong double-digit profit growth’ for the full year and adding the initial outlook for 2016 is ‘encouraging’.
Pressure Technologies (PRES:AIM) jumps 23% to 180.5p, a result of strong performances across some of its divisions. This sparks the company to steer the market to adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) slightly beating market expectations.
Domain name trader CentralNic (CNIC:AIM) rallies 9% to 59p as it confirms strong market share of new top level domain names issued. It claims more than two million registered, which it works out as around 21% of the global market.
Toys company Hornby (HRN:AIM) slides nearly 6% to 91.25p after warning that full year revenue and profit will be lower than market expectations. But the company is confident it will recover next year.
Budget accommodation provider EasyHotel (EZH:AIM) gains 3% to 68.5p after signing an agreement with MAN Investments to develop EasyHotels in the the United Arab Emirates and Oman. MAN aims to open 600 rooms by 2017 and at least 1,600 rooms by the end of 2020 under a franchise arrangement.
Ireland-headquartered fuel distributor DCC (DCC) adds 3.7% to £55.52 as management say results for the year to 31 March 2016 will be slightly ahead of expectations, assuming normal weather patterns. Revenue declined 7% because of lower fuel input prices but margins increased, leading to an 18.5% gain in earnings per share.
Tenanted pub company Punch Taverns (PUB) rises 2.2% to 137p ahead of its full year results on 12 November. The market is expecting new chief executive Duncan Garrood to give an update on the company's strategy, which is likely to improve sentiment on the stock.
Builder's merchant Wolseley (WOS) is among the main fallers, shedding 4.7% to £36.28, after a trading update that points to slowing construction markets. Wolseley's first quarter like-for-like revenue in the UK declined 1.1% where markets remain challenging, as highlighted by recent economic data.
Life insurer Prudential (PRU) slips 1.8% to £15.20 on £2.7 billion withdrawn from its investment manager M&G in the three months to 30 September. Management have blamed customers no longer wanting to invest in fixed income assets, which helped funds under management to be £10 billion lower year-on-year, with market movements also playing a part.
Investors sell BTG (BTG) following positive interim results after an earlier update saw the biotech lower guidance for the year. Shares plummet 6.4% to 510.7p despite pre-tax profits jumping 40.6% to £52.9 million as demand for its products across the board increases.
Investors are still to be won over by the potential takeover of Plethora (PLE:AIM). The shares fall 2.4% to 5p as two major shareholders agree to the deal, giving Hong Kong-based investor Regent Pacific some 11% more of the shares.