UK stocks reduced early gains but remained in positive territory at midday on Thursday, buoyed by optimism that Covid-19 restrictions will be removed as planned on 19 July.

Brent crude leapt 1.6% to $75.80 a barrel ahead of an OPEC meeting later today where the leading oil producers are expected to decide on output policy.

At 12pm the FTSE 100 of leading shares was up 0.5% at 7,071 led by oil producers, airlines and consumer stocks.

COMPANY NEWS

Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) raised its guidance for full year pre-tax earnings to 'not less than £550 million' against market estimates of £525 million.

The firm said trading at both the clothing retailer and its sugar division was ahead of previous management forecasts. The shares gained 4.2% to £23.08.

Sports retailer JD Sports Fashion (JD.) said it was on track to deliver profit of at least £550 million following encouraging reopening in the UK and enhanced demand in the US as the government rolled out further stimulus cheques. The shares added 2.7% to 943.4p.

Shares in software company Aveva (AVV) rose 2.5% to £38.02 as it unveiled new financial targets following a 'good' start to fiscal 2022. The company achieved approximately 10% revenue growth in the first two months of the financial year.

Specialty plastics maker Biome Technologies (BIOM:AIM) warned that revenues this year and next year would be 'materially below' market forecasts after a US customer delayed orders due to issues at its plant.

The firm also blamed delays and cancellations in transporting its products by sea. The shares crumbled 25% to 360.1p.

SSE (SSE) -owned Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks Distribution published its draft business plan for 2023 to 2028, setting out how it will accelerate investment in its networks and services to power communities to net zero. SSE's shares dropped 0.5% to £14.93.

Network International (NETW) rose 0.9% to 368.8p as it said it is "making good progress" in closing the acquisition of DPO group, having gained the necessary regulatory approvals.

Online electrical retailer AO World (AO.) reported a sharp increase in annual profit as revenue was driven by the continued shift to online shopping.

For the year ended 31 March 2021, pre-tax profit jumped 1,900% to £20 million year-on-year as revenue increased 62% to £1.66 billion. The shares gained 0.3% to 253.8p.

Building materials supplier Grafton (GFTU) entered into an agreement to sell its traditional merchanting business in the UK for an enterprise value of £520 million to Huws Gray. The shares gained 4.3% to £11.96.

Power company Drax (DRX) agreed to acquire a 20% stake in Alabama Pellets, the joint venture which owns the Demopolis and Aliceville pellet plants, from The Westervelt Company, for $29.7 million. The shares nudged up 0.25% to 425.3p.

Listed infrastructure investment company International Public Partnerships (IPP) reached financial close on a new police headquarters in South-East Hesse in Offenbach, Germany. The shares fell 0.2% to 166,7p.

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Issue Date: 01 Jul 2021