Bucking a rising FTSE 100, media giant Pearson (PSON) slipped 5.5% to £11.49 as the group's dominant North American education business disappointed. A new £150 million cost saving plan was announced for 2013 but savings will be used to further enhance the digital education offering. Textbooks remain the big earner and digital is unlikely to counterbalance losses in 2013. State funding the K-12, kindergarten to Year 12, and US higher education markets remains under pressure. Key peer Reed Elsevier (REL), publisher of [ITAL] The Lancet [END] academic journal, dipped 2.4% to 687.5p in response to Pearson's announcement.
Health, hygiene and home products powerhouse Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) fell 4% to £43.32 as the market digested bad news concerning its Suboxone opioid painkiller. In a poorly-received update, Reckitt, known for its high growth, high margin 'Powerbrands' including Nurofen, Durex and Dettol, said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has chosen to deny Reckitt's 'Citizen's Petition' on Suboxone, aimed at raising barriers to generics on the grounds of child safety. Investors also headed for the exits on news that the FDA has approved two generic tablets which threaten to eat into the earnings of its Pharma division.
Oil major BP (BP) slicked up 2% to 453p on reports it could be offered a $16 billion settlement on its outstanding liabilities relating to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A civil trial in New Orleans is due to begin today.
Foods-to-fashion giant Associated British Foods (ABF) fell 8p to £18.22 after a stunning run, as investors booked profits in spite of the posting of a strong first-half pre-close update. The £14.5 billion cap pleased with news that interim results would beat the company's expectations at the start of the year, thanks to 'an outstanding performance' from its clothing chain Primark. Unfortunately the 7% like-for-like sales growth was less than market consensus forecast of 9%. Associated British Foods also said that first half-profits in its sugar division would be lower than last year, with the company having taken a charge for the unexpected mothballing of its two smallest sugar beet factories in north China.
Domino's Pizza (DOM) dipped 2% to 527p after revealing a slow start to 2013. Click here to read our full story on the matter including details about how well Domino's expansion is proceeding in Germany and Switzerland.
Two house builders posted strong results, coming two weeks after data showed a pick-up in mortgage lending during 2012. Bovis Homes (BVS) reported a 69% rise in pre-tax profit to £54.1 million, hitting the upper end of market expectations. In 2013 to date, the group has already achieved a 9% increase in private reservations with average sales price rising to around £200,000 compared to the 2012 average of £188,700. Persimmon (PSN) grew pre-tax profits by 52% to £225 millon in 2012 on the back of strong margin growth, which increased by 13%. Revenue growth was another driver, rising 12% and augmented by 6% growth in both the average sales price and volumes.
Full-year pre-tax profits from aircraft parts maker Senior (SNR) were ahead of consensus forecasts at £91.1 million helping the shares achieve take off – up 5.8% at 234.1p. N+1 Singer which has a buy recommendation on the stock and says: 'Senior is an increasing force in commercial aerospace manufacturing with significant and growing content on all of the key Boeing and Airbus aircraft programmes. Production rates on most of these programmes are currently being ramped up.'
Consensus-beating results and a dividend rise saw insurer Hiscox (HSX) jump 3.3% to 515p. During 2012 the company made a £217.1 million pre-tax profit, up from £17.3 million a year earlier. Shareholders have been rewarded with a 5.9% dividend rise in the total dividend to 18p. Hiscox is also paying a 38p per special dividend share by way of a B share scheme.
The coal industry had a plethora of news from quoted companies. South African producer Strategic Natural Resources (SNRP:AIM) dipped 0.6% to 20p as it announced that David Nel would step down as chief executive officer (CEO) of the plc business but continue to run the mining operations. Until a permanent replacement is found, non-executive director Gabriel Ruhan will take over as CEO. Mozambique-based Ncondezi Coal (NCCL:AIM) was flat at 22.12p despite also losing its CEO. Nigel Walls is leaving as the group shifts focus to setting up a coal-fired power station. It wants to change the corporate name to Ncondezi Energy. UK Coal hasn't enjoyed a good life since changing its name to Coalfield Resources (CRES). The shares are down 11.5% to 5.63p after a fire at its Daw Mill colliery in Warwickshire.
Iron ore group Afferro Mining (AFF:AIM) could be sticking around on the stock market for longer than expected after news of a potential strategic partner shifted the focus away from earlier takeover talks. The Cameroon-based junior advanced 2.3% to 77.25p after it signed a memorandum of understanding with the African arm of Korean steel firm Posco. A formal deal could see Posco invest money at the project level for Afferro's suite of projects in Cameroon and to help get infrastructure and project development funding.
Cupid's (CUP:AIM) financial advisers were hard at work this morning trying to reassure investors following yesterday's expose of the online dating industry on BBC radio. Their damage limitation efforts appear to have been successful with the shares moving from a 6% decline in early trading to a 1.2% gain by mid morning at 135.88p. Expect full-year results next week (5 Mar) to be heavily scrutinised by the market.
Animal genetics specialist Genus (GNS) reported a 5% drop in pre-tax profit to £24.8 million, sending its shares down 1.7% to £14.31. Profits were hit by higher animal feed and research and development costs despite a rise in earnings from its Asian business. Analyst Jens Lindqvist at N+1 Singer praises Genus' expansion of operations in China which he believes will drive a 'material improvement in profitability in 2014/2015 onwards.'
Shares in United Carpets (UCG:AIM) fell 20% to 2.5p on their return from suspension. The specialist retail carpet and floor covering operator's shares were suspended in August 2012 after it failed to produce accounts in time under stock market rules. After placing its UCN arm into administration in October, the core business was immediately acquired out of this pre-pack administration in a move safeguarding many jobs.
Energy minnow Leyshon Resources (LRL:AIM) gained 9.3% to 16.8p on the announcement of a $20 million accelerated drilling programme to test the potential of its unconventional gas discoveries in China.
Investment company International Oil and Gas Technology (OGT) fell 4.1% to 4.65p despite telling shareholders its existing investments have the potential to deliver significant returns.