UK stocks edge higher on vaccine hopes; earnings updates

Wed, 13th Jan 2021

UK stocks opened modestly higher on Wednesday as investors continued to weigh Covid vaccine optimism with lockdown fallout fears, while a slew of companies released a mixed bag of trading updates. At 0820, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 8.06 points, or 0.1%, at 6,762.17. Food delivery company Just Eat Takeaway dropped 4.0% to £87.08 after it forecast a 10% annual adjusted earnings margin, citing 'significant' investment and a preference for market-share gains over earnings. Just Eat Takeaway said its expected annual revenue growth of more than 50% following a 57% leap in fourth-quarter orders. House builder Persimmon slipped 2.1% to £27.26 on announcing that its annual revenue had fallen 8.8%, though the drop was buffered by a recovery in trading conditions during the second half. Persimmon's home completions fell 14% to 13,575, down from 15,855, but included 8,675 completions in the second half. Dividends for the full year would more than halve to 110p per share, down from 235p in 2019. Online fashion retailer Asos rallied 3.8% to £53.94, having lifted its annual profit guidance on the back of a strong performance in the lead up to Christmas. Asos now expected pre-tax profit for the year through August to be at the top end of range of current market expectations of £115 million to £170 million. High-tech instruments and test equipment supplier Spectris fell 0.8% to £29.86 even as it guided for a full-year profit at the upper end of analysts expectations following a smaller-than-feared fall in sales. Spectris's adjusted operating profit for the year through December was now expected to be around the top end of the consensus range of £150 million-to-£171 million. Gambling company William Hill, which has agreed to be acquired by Caesers Entertainment, tacked on 0.2% to 269.8p after it reported a 9% rise in fourth-quarter revenue. The year-on-year increase was driven by favourable sporting results, plus enhanced products and geographical expansion, the company said. Self-storage group Big Yellow gained 0.7% to £10.87 as it reported a rise in revenue in third-quarter revenue on higher occupancy, driven largely by demand from its domestic customer base. Fund management group Liontrust Asset Management rose 1.4% to £12.6795 after it revealed a 43% rise in quarterly assets under management, buoyed by net inflows of £792 million. Recruitment company PageGroup shed 1.5% to 451p on announcing that its fourth-quarter gross profit had fallen by almost a fifth, as the pandemic continues to pressure employment markets. On a brighter note, PageGroup said it had seen a monthly sequential improvement through the fourth quarter, with gross profit in December down 18%. Landscaping product supplier Marshalls firmed 0.8% to 721.44p following news that it would reinstate its dividend even as its annual revenue fell 13%, though on an improving trend. Music rights investor Hipgnosis Songs Fund added 0.3% to 119.9p after it acquired a song catalogue from Latin pop start Shakira, for an undisclosed sum. Defence contractor TP jumped 9.8% to 6.7p on announcing that it was considering a sale of its maritime engineering business after it received expressions of interest from potential buyers. Story provided by

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