UK stocks opened higher on Friday as the European Union's chief negotiator said there were 'just hours left' to strike a Brexit deal. Hopes have been rising steadily over the course of the week that a ‘thin’ deal will be reached and a no-deal scenario can be avoided.

Meanwhile the Office for National Statistics reported a fall in November retail sales of 3.8% as shoppers stayed home during the second lockdown. This was slightly better than the 4.3% drop expected by economists.

The FTSE 100 index ticked up 17 points to 6,668 led by healthcare and raw material stocks while banks and property stocks were the main laggards.

The pound eased back slightly after breaching $1.36 yesterday to trade at $1.352 while Brent crude also gave back some recent gains to trade at $51.25 per barrel. Gold again struggled to conquer the $1,900 per ounce level, drifting back to $1,880.


Betfair and Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) said a Kentucky court had reinstated an award of damages against The Stars Group for $870 million. The original 2015 ruling will apply compound interest at 12% a year. Flutter merged with The Stars Group earlier this year.

Flutter said gross gaming revenues generated in Kentucky were around $18 million and it is ‘confident that any amount it ultimately becomes liable to pay will be a limited proportion of the reinstated judgement.’ The shares fell 3% to £149.55.

Shares in airline group IAG (IAG) dipped 0.8% to 15.5p after Spanish website El Confidencial reported that IAG subsidiary Iberia had agreed to buy Spanish rival Air Europe for €500 million with payment due to 2026.

Iberia did in fact offer to buy Air Europe in November 2019, since when the firm has received state aid from the Spanish government to keep it flying. Neither IAG, Iberia or Globalia, the owner of Air Europe, were available for comment.

Barclays Bank (BARC) chairman Sir Ian Cheshire will step down from 1 January 2021 and be succeeded by Crawford Gillies. Sir Ian will stay on the board of Barclays until the AGM in May 2021 in order to help ensure a smooth transition, the company said.

Barclays also said it had appointed Julia Wilson as non-executive director from the 1 April 2020. Wilson joins from Legal & General (LGEN) where she is a senior independent director. Barclays shares dropped 1.3% to 143.6p.

Technology company Halma (HLMA) said it had sold Fiberguide Industries to Molex for $38 million.

Fiberguide, a manufacturer of fibre optic technology headquartered in Idaho, USA, was acquired by Halma in 2008. The shares nudged-up 0.6% to £24.54.

Commercial property developer British Land (BLND) said it had completed the drawdown of the 500-year head lease with Southwark Council.

The head lease would combine the ownership of British Land's assets at Canada Water into a single 500-year head lease, with Southwark Council as the lessor.

The company also said it had signed its first pre-let with new higher education enterprise, TEDI-London, which had chosen to locate its new campus at Canada Water. The shares dropped 2.4% to 490.5p.

Telecommunications and mobile money services company Airtel Africa (AAF) said its subsidiary Airtel Uganda had been issued a 20-year national telecom operator licence.

Under the new licence, which went into effect from 1 July 2020, Airtel Uganda would retain all its current spectrum subject to the law and terms of assignment.

Airtel Uganda had paid $74.6 million which included VAT of  $11.4 million for the licence. The shares were unchanged at 76.1p.

Infrastructure investment company BBGI Global Infrastructure (BBGI) said it had completed its acquisition of a 25% stake in Signature on the Saint-Lawrence, the operator of the Samuel De Champlain Bridge Corridor in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Completion of the acquisition comes after the company the Government of Canada's approved the deal and other conditions were met, the company said.  The shares dipped 0.1% to 168.4p.

Hg Capital Trust (HGT) said it had made a £7.4 million investment in Geomatikk, a tech-enabled services company.

Geomatikk manages critical 'check-before-you-dig' safety assessments to network owners, contractors and consulting engineers within Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Hg Capital said it would support Geomatikk with its extensive experience in scaling tech companies across Europe. The shares nudged up 0.2% to 304.5p.

Shares in E-sports company Gfinity (GFIN:AIM) raced 7% ahead to 3.7p after saying it was operationally profitable in October and November and is on track for another strong performance in December 2020.


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Issue Date: 18 Dec 2020