After swinging between gains and losses throughout the day, UK stocks finished virtually unchanged on Tuesday as pleasing updates from BP (BP.), Melrose (MRO) and Direct Line (DLG) were offset by a profit slump at Diageo (DGE).
At 4.35pm the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 5 points or 0.08% at 6,028, just about holding above the 6,000 level.
BP was the biggest points contributor, rising 6.7% to 300p even as it slashed its dividend by 50% to 5.25c per share on the back of a $16.8bn second-quarter loss.
The loss included $9.2bn of impairment charges pinned on falling oil prices, which BP had already flagged to investors. The company pledged to reset a ‘resilient dividend' of 5.25c per quarter.
Engineering group Melrose Industries was the biggest gainer, jumping 9.3% to 96.4p after it agreed improved financial covenants with its banking syndicate up until the end of 2022, for a 'modest' cash cost.
Insurance company Direct Line rallied 5.3% to 324p despite posting a 9.5% fall in first-half profit as it lifted its interim dividend 2.8% to 7.4p per share and reinstated its 2019 final dividend of 14.4p, citing the strength of its financial position.
EasyJet (EZJ) climbed 8.7% to 552p on announcing that it would expand its flight schedule in the fourth quarter following higher-than-expected demand, while reporting third-quarter performance in line with expectations.
The budget carrier said it had notched a load factor of 84% in July, as destinations like Faro and Nice remained popular with customers.
Rival carrier Ryanair (RYA) gained 2.6% to €11.1c on announcing that it carried 70% less passengers during July compared to the same month a year earlier.
The airline sector in general is making a shaky and gradual recovery as lockdowns are eased, with Ryanair operating at around 40% of its normal July schedule with a 72% load factor.
Fellow budget airline Wizz Air (WIZZ) rose 3.2% to £32.76 on news that it carried 53% less passengers during July compared to the same month last year.
Industrial flow control equipment manufacturer Rotork (ROR) firmed 5.2% to 301p even as after posted a 4.3% fall in first-half profit after sales were hit by Covid-19 related disruptions to production facilities.
Rotork did not declare an interim dividend, but did decide to pay its previously deferred 2019 final dividend of 3.9p per share.
Software group Oxford Metrics (OMG) added 2.7% to 77p on news that its motion measurement division Vicon had signed a contract with Electric Playbox, targeting the location-based entertainment market.
Alcoholic drinks maker Diageo was the FTSE’s biggest loser, sliding 5.5% to £27.21 as profits more than halved on the back of lower sales and a $1.3bn hit from impairments owing to the pandemic.
The impairment charges at Diageo were largely associated with businesses in emerging markets, including India, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Precision measurement group Spectris (SXS) dropped 4.9% to £25.14, having posted a deeper first-half loss that included asset write downs, though sales were better than expected in the second quarter.
Spectris held its interim dividend steady at 21.9p per share and said an additional dividend of 43.2p would be paid in October in lieu of the 2019 final dividend.
Aerospace and defence company Babcock (BAB) crashed 9.4% to 262p after it said it would not pay a final dividend for its financial year ended March amid a fall in quarterly profit owing to lower revenue.