UK stocks shot higher in early afternoon trading after news broke of promising data from a second coronavirus vaccine.

Pharmaceutical company Moderna said its prospective vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing the illness which has ravaged economies across the globe, data that surpassed last week's Pfizer news, putting a rocket under leading shares.

At 1.30pm, the benchmark FTSE 100 had jumped 1.9% at 6,435.95, led by the usual suspects of travel and leisure-rated companies that look likely to reap the biggest rewards from a return to something resembling normality.

These included large gains for International Consolidated Airlines (IAG), Intercontinental Hotels (IHG) and Whitbread (WTB).

The mid-cap FTSE 250 rallied even harder, shooting close on 2% higher to 19,648.62.

Also helping sentiment was the signing of a new regional free-trade agreement between Asia Pacific nations including China, Japan and South-Korea encompassing nearly a third of global GDP.

Brent crude oil prices rose 1.3% to $43.60 per barrel while gold traded sideways at $1,892 per ounce.

CORPORATE NEWS

Reporting on the first-half, telecom company Vodafone (VOD) posted slightly better than expected top-line earnings. Overall revenues dropped 2.3% to €21.4 billion, but service revenues were just 0.8% lower compared with market forecasts of a 2.3% drop.

The company reaffirmed its free cash flow guidance of at least €5 billion and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of between €14.4 billion and €14.6 billion. The interim dividend of 4.5 euro cents was unchanged. Shares were among the big-cap risers, adding 3% to 123p.

In an extremely brief first-quarter trading update for the period ended 31 October, software reseller Softcat (SCT) said it had performed well and delivered year-on-year growth in revenues and operating profit while also achieving its recruitment targets.

The board was said to be pleased with the results to date and noted further positive momentum heading into the second-quarter. Shares jumped 7.8% to £12.04.

Global technology company Smiths Group (SMIN) reported first-quarter sales to 31 October down 2% on an underlying basis and said it was confident of meeting full-year market expectations.

The restructuring programme was said to be progressing well and expected to deliver £30 million savings in the current year and £70 million in 2022. Strong cash generation saw cash balances rise to £413 million at the period end. Shares gained 2.6% to £15.41.

Engineering and consultancy company Wood Group (WG.) announced it had completed the planned sale of its joint venture interest in Canadian gas turbine group TransCanada to partner TC Energy for $67 million.

The deal represented a multiple of about 7.6 times Wood's share of expected 2020 EBITDA.

Wood said the sale formed part of its focus on portfolio optimisation, with the cash proceeds to reduce debt. Shares added 2.3% to 278.5p.

IT provider Kainos (KNOS) reported first-half revenues up 23% to £107.2 million and a doubling in pre-tax profit to £24 million for the period ended 30 September.

The company said its contracted order backlog grew 38% to £180.9 million which continued to underpin further revenue growth. The dividend was increased by 83% to 6.4p per share. Shares gave up their early gains to trade flat at £11.89 at lunchtime.

Distributor of seals, controls and life sciences group Diploma (DPLM) raised its full-year dividend to 30p per share from 29p after saying underlying revenues recovered strongly in the second-half.

Underlying full-year revenues to 30 September fell 7% but tight cost management and good working capital management saw free cash flow up 28% to £72.5 million.

The company said it was confident in the growth outlook and expected to deliver a strong performance with a return to mid-single digit growth and historic margins, in line with market expectations. Investors seemed unimpressed however, marking the shares down 2% to £22.50.

Gem Capital said it had made a £19.16 million cash offer to acquire oil and gas explorer Volga Gas (VGAS:AIM).

Upon completion of the deal, Volga Gas would become a private company, and its shares would be delisted from the stock exchange.

Volga Gas shareholders would receive 23.71p per share, representing a discount of around 3.2% to the closing price of 24.50 pence on 13 November.

The company said shareholders, representing about 80.07% of Volga Gas's existing issued ordinary share capital, had indicated they would be open to the offer. Shares dropped 6% to 23p.

FOR A LIST OF FTSE 100 GAINERS & LOSERS SEE HERE

 

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Issue Date: 16 Nov 2020