London shares are on the retreat in early trade on Tuesday as jittery investors mull a mixed bag of corporate results and fret over weak trade figures coming out of China. The FTSE 100 index slidfes around 65 points, or roughly 1%, to 6,120, matching similar gloom across Europe and on Asian markets overnight. Wall Street closed up.
Kantar Worldpanel's latest grocery share figures reveal 0.5% year-on-year growth in supermarket sales for the 12 weeks ending 28 February, the fastest rate of growth in five months. Tesco (TSCO) ticks 3.6p higher to 195.4p as its positive run continues, a sales fall of 0.8% halving last month's 1.6% decline. Fresh from inking a stunning tie-up with Amazon (AMZN:NDQ), Wm Morrison Supermarkets (MRW) is marked down 2.8% to 203.6p. Morrisons' sales fell 3.2% in the period with market share dipping to 10.6%, though this reflects the fact the grocer is operating fewer stores than last year.
On the corporate front, disappointing maiden results at Worldpay (WPG), which listed in October 2015, see shares in the FTSE 100 payments specialist trade 6.5% lower at 273p. Chief executive Philip Jansen reiterates a target to grow gross profit between 9% to 11% over the medium to long term and says growth in the last year exceeded that range at 12%.
Luxury goods giant Burberry (BRBY) rallies 4.8% higher to £14.37 as the Financial Times reports that a mystery investor has bought up a near-5% stake. Market whispers doing the rounds suggest Burberry has turned the heads of US luxury handbag retailer Coach and the private equity players.
Industrial equipment distributor Brammer (BRAM) falls 12.2% to 191p as it admits self-inflicted problems in its UK business led to a fall in profits. Management changes, an inventory reduction programme and a restructuring programme have been put in place to turn around performance and reduce debt. Weak market conditions in the UK and Nordic regions in recent months have also not helped, according to chief executive Ian Fraser. Brammer's sales in the two geographies fell 1.4% and 16.5% respectively.
Gambling powerhouse Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) slips 1.6% to £9.74 after its maiden results as a merged business fail to win over investors. Revenue totalled £1.32 billion in 2015 compared with Davy's forecast of £1.34 billion. Paddy Power delivered underlying EBIT growth of 50% in 2015 while Betfair delivered underlying EBITDA growth of 41% over the last nine months. Paddy Power's telephone channel made an EBIT loss of €15.7 million due to a 'freakish' set of adverse sports results in the first half.
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) falls 2.8% to 420.3p after analysts at Berenberg downgrade their recommendation from 'hold' to 'sell' following last month's weak set of full year results in which it noted the uncertain short-term trading outlook and said there is no possibility of asset sales.
Deal-hungry car retailer Vertu Motors (VTU:AIM) adds 3.2% at 73.25p on a positive pre-close trading update. Results for the year ended 29 February are expected to beat market expectations, Vertu guiding towards record annual sales and profits and also flagging a bulging March order book.
Luxury interior furnishings firm Walker Greenbank (WGB:AIM), a running Play of the Week, wanders 3p higher to 208p on the receipt of an £8 million interim insurance payment in connection with last year's flooding at its Lancaster fabric printing factory.
Fast-growing voice recognition and secure payments business Eckoh (ECK:AIM) has signed a new five-year contract extension with major client Ideal Shopping Direct. No financials details are made available but as one of the comany's biggest customers, it lifts the shares 1% higher to 45p.
Home and car insurer Esure (ESUR) falls 1.9% to 258.3p on a 31% cut in 2015’s dividend to 11.5p. Management are retaining more cash to help fund growth. Motor insurance premiums improved by 7.4% to £461 million during the year, but profits fell 22.7% to £82.9 million to fund the acquisition of comparison website Go Compare.
A 12% rise in revenue sees vaccine-maker Allergy Therapeutics (AGY:AIM) trade 2.7% higher at 28p. Pre-tax profits fell to £1.3 million in 2015 from £7.4 million a year earlier on increased R&D and clinical trial spend.
Paper and packaging group Powerflute (POWR:AIM) edges up 1.1% to 84p on a 164% increase in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) to €55.2 million in 2015, driven by its acquisition of Corenzo, a €7.7 million foreign exchange boost and an improvement in underlying market conditions. The proposed dividend has been doubled to 3c per share and the group says it expects 2016 to be another successful year despite some recent softening of market conditions.