FTSE falls after three days of gains

Fri, 27th Mar 2020

UK stocks dropped sharply at the open on Friday, after three days of back-to-back gains for global stock markets, and traded lower throughout the morning session. By midday the FTSE 100 index was down 3.8% to 5,594 points with just one stock in positive territory as gold miner Polymetal gained 0.3% to £13.09. The biggest losers were cruise-ship operator Carnival down 14% to £10.63, B&Q store-owner Kingfisher down 10% to 153p, equipment-rental firm Ashtead down 9.7% to £16.77 and pest-control firm Rentokil down 9.5% to 362p. MORE DIVIDEND CUTS As well as concerns over the continued rise of coronavirus cases around the world, investors were confronted with another swathe of dividend cancellations from UK companies. Gambling firm Flutter Entertainment sank 8.6% to £67.71 on announcing that it would pay its 2019 dividend in shares and cancel a pro-rated payout related to its takeover of Stars Group. Domino's Pizza sagged 2.6% to 273p, having cancelled its dividend despite seeing a surge in takeaway orders as people hunkered down at home in self-isolation. Clothing retailer Next lost 7.5% to £41.68 after it closed its online, warehousing and distribution operations due to concerns among its staff at having to continue working. In its full year results last week, Next revealed that online sales grew by nearly 12% last year and accounted for almost half of total revenues while in-store sales continued to shrink. Power utility SSE slumped 7.8% to £12.84, having warned that annual earnings would be at the lower end of its guidance range, even before including any impact from the coronavirus crisis. SSE did say it was keeping its dividend plans intact, but it warned that future pay-outs were under review. Aerospace and defence contractor Meggitt also fell 7.8%, to 311p, as it withdrew its planned final dividend payment of 11.95p per share after having reassessed the impact of coronavirus on its business. House builder Redrow lost 7.4% to 372p after it decided to close all of its building sites and offices. Redrow also said it was talking to its lenders about accessing more credit. Wealth manager Standard Life Aberdeen slipped 8.3% to 237p, despite it pocketing 21.86bn Indian rupees (£237m) by selling a further stake in Indian insurer HDFC Life. Healthcare services group Mediclinic International fell 6.2% to 293p, even as it announced the appointment of former Lloyds of London chief executive Inga Beale as its new chairman. Subprime lender Provident Financial was a heavy faller, dropping 15% to 215p after it scrapped its 2019 financial dividend, while predicting its credit issued and collections performance would be adversely impacted by the virus. Property portal Rightmove reversed 5.4% to 463p as it cancelled its final dividend and withdrew its financial guidance as the UK housing market looked set to go back into 'hibernation' due to the shut-down. Landscape products group Marshalls slid 5.3% to 602p, having cancelled its final dividend for 2019 together with a planned supplementary pay-out. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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