UK stocks opened ahead on Monday buoyed by mergers and acquisition activity but increasing worries over the new strain of the virus kept enthusiasm muted.

Trading in Asia was positive with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 0.7% and China’s SE Composite up 0.5%. Gold prices slipped 0.2% to $1,851 an ounce and Brent Crude gained 0.5% to $57.5 a barrel.

The pound was 0.2% higher at $1.37. At 08:40 the FTSE 100 of leading shares nudged up 0.1% to 6,688 points.

RETAIL THERAPY

Online fashion retailer ASOS (ASC) confirmed that it was in exclusive discussions with the administrators of Arcadia over the acquisition of the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands. The shares added 2% to £48.8.

Fellow online fashion peer Boohoo (BOO) said it had acquired the intellectual property assets of Debenhams Retail for £55 million in cash.

The company said the transaction represents a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to grow the group's target addressable market and increase the share of wallet opportunity through a new capital light and low risk operating model that is complementary to the group's direct-to-consumer multi-brand platform. The shares shot up 5% to 350p.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca (AZN) said on Monday its drug to treat relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia had been approved in Japan.

In a separate announcement, the company said that Calquence had met its the primary endpoint in the Elevate-RR phase three trial, demonstrating non-inferior progression-free survival for adults with previously treated, high-risk chronic lymphocytic leukaemia compared to ibrutinib. The shares gained 0.8% to £78.4.

In a pre-close trading update global automotive fluid storage and systems company TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) said strong fourth quarter cash generation will result in full-year adjusted free-cash flow being ‘well ahead’ of its expectations.

Revenues for the year ended 31 December 2020 are anticipated to be in line with the decline in global light production volumes.  The board declared an interim dividend of euro 6.74 cents per share to be paid in February. The shares accelerated 2.2% to to 240.5p.

BEAR RAID RESPONSE

Payments company Network International (NETW) reiterated that it had found ‘no evidence of wrongdoing’ at DPO, a company that it recently acquired with connections to Wirecard executive Dietmar Knoechelmann.

The company said it had published on its website answers to frequently asked questions, providing final responses to issues raised in a critical report in December by short-seller ShadowFall Research. The shares dipped 0.3% to 364.4p.

Financial services company JTC (JTC) said it continued to ‘perform well’ in the second half of the year and expected annual results to meet management and consensus estimates following new business wins.

It added that EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) margin remained stable and within guidance with the private client services division continuing to perform strongly. The shares gained 3.7% to 398p.

Sirius Real Estate (SRE) said its Titanium joint venture with AXA IM Alts had acquired the Sigma Technopark in Augsburg, Germany for around €80 million from a fund managed by Corestate.

The acquisition upped the size of the Titanium portfolio to around €317 million, nearly double its value at launch in August of €168 million. The shares gained 2% to 88.1p.

Consumer gift packaging business IG Design (IGR) said performance in the nine months to 31 December 2020 had been stronger than expected but ongoing restrictions and uncertainty meant the full-year outlook remained in line with current market expectations. The shares added 3.3% to 541.2p.

Shares in pawnbroking group H&T (HAT) jumped 11.5% to 301p after the company said full-year pre-tax profit was expected to be ahead of market expectations following stronger-than-anticipated performance in November and December.

Almost all the 253 stores remain open, albeit with shortened trading hours, the company said.

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Issue Date: 25 Jan 2021