London stocks nudge modestly higher in trading on Tuesday, bobbing around levels not seen since late September. The FTSE 100 makes single-digit gains at 6,619 aided by a strong rally by Vodafone (VOD) and in blue-chip property stocks.
The UK mobile giant heads the Footsie leader board as interim results show consumers demanding ever more data, helping revenues rise 8.9% to £20.8 billion, marginally ahead of forecast. There's also evidence of beleaguered European markets finally stabilising, welcome news to worried shareholders. Vodafone rallies more than 5% to 218.45p.
Property group Land Securities (LAND) is also in demand after reporting a massive increase in profits in its first half and a higher net asset value. Pre-tax profit totalled £1.03 billion in the six months to 30 September. That news buoys the wider property sector with both British Land (BLND) and Hammerson (HMSO) also on the rise.
Science kit manufacturer Renishaw (RSW) jumps 10% to £19.47 as the engineering firm reiterates full-year guidance, saying that it continues to see 'strong demand' across its product lines. This is the fourth positive trading update in little more than a month.
But it's not all good news as mining stocks are dragged lower as commodity prices fall and analysts estimate further declines in iron-ore. Citigroup predicts that iron-ore prices will drop to under $60 a metric tonne next year as supply increases amid weak demand, comment that hang heavy on the resources sector. Fresnillo (FRES), Anglo American (AAL) and Randgold Resources (RRS) bear the brunt of the sell-off, down losing between 2.5% and 4%.
Shares in broadband and calls supplier TalkTalk (TALK) also hit the skids as marketing and subscriber acquisition costs (SACs) rise, as predicted by Shares, causing the group to lower full year guidance. Analysts at Jefferies calculate a 7% to 8% cut to full year to end March earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), while the broker echoes our concerns over long-run 25% EBITDA margin targets. The shares fall nearly 4% to 285.5p.
Horse race betting processor Sportech (SPO) falls 9.1% to 50p after weak trading since August. It narrowly avoids a profit warning thanks to reduced net interest charge, meaning profits should still hit expectations. Yet the market is clearly worried about a reduction in amounts wagers across the US racing industry given the fierce share price reaction.
Troubled South African miner Central Rand Gold (CRND:AIM) shoots up 275% to 30p after revealing a potential takeover offer worth $150 million from Hong Kong group Hiria. Last night's closing price values the business at a mere £6 million, so investors are chasing the stock up as an arbitrage play. Numis says the takeover faces hurdles such as getting regulatory approval from the South African government. We highlighted an anomaly with the miner a year ago where investors could buy shares at 21p and then get further stock at a 58% discount.
Unloved horticultural products supplier William Sinclair (SNCL:AIM) wilts once again, down 26.4% to 33.5p on yet another profits warning. Rather than breakeven, William Sinclair now expects to report a £1 million earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) loss for the year to September due to a late peat harvest, disappointing second half sales and the transition to a new site at Ellesmere Port. We highlighted the recovery potential and risks associated with the small cap here in August.
Troubled African and Middle East focused oil play Afren (AFR) falls 4.1% to 79p as it reveals 2014 output will be at the lower end of its guidance. On 29 August, the company had guided for annual net production between 32,000 and 36,000 barrels of oil per day.
Clinical trial manager Venn Life Sciences (VENN:AIM) gains 10.5% to 21p on closing a €1.4 million deal to manage a phase II trial for a US company.
Obesity and diabetes-focused drug developer OptiBiotix Health (OPTI:AIM) falls 4.5% to 13.2p as investors take profits as the company prepares to test a cholesterol-lowering food supplement on people for the first time.