Market report

Covid plan lifts leisure stocks | Barratt raises guidance


5pm: Covid plan lifts markets

The London market was lifted by by travel and leisure stocks on news that UK virus isolation rules could be relaxed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will present his plan for living with Covid when parliament returns on 21 February.

British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group climbed 3.8%, cinema operator Cineworld rose 7.4% while transport operator Stagecoach added 4.2%.

The FTSE 100 closed 76.35 points or 1.01% higher at 7,643.42, not far below the day’s peak of 7,657.93 and close to a new two-year high

Aviation services provider John Menzies saw its shares close 143p (43%) higher at 463p, valuing the Edinburgh business at £439 million.

The surge followed its rejection of a £468m takeover approach from a subsidiary of Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility Public Warehouse Co.

Brent oil was quoted at $91.90 a barrel late Wednesday, up from $90.28 late Tuesday.

7am: Barratt raises guidance

Barratt Developments has raised its guidance for home completions to a level higher than before the pandemic.

The housebuilder said it was on track to complete up to 18,200 homes this year, allaying concerns that high inflation and rising interest rates would dampen buyer demand. 

Total forward sales rose by 9.1% in Barratt’s first half to the end of December to 14,818 homes, at a value of £3.7billion, up from £3.2bn.

The group expects to complete 250 more homes than previously forecast.It reported pre-tax profits of £432.6million for the first half, from £430.2m for the same period a year ago, and raised its interim dividend to 11.2p a share from 7.5p.

7am: Menzies rejects takeover proposal

Airport logistics company John Menzies has rejected an unsolicited all-cash takeover proposal from National Aviation Services valuing the company at £468m or 510p per share.

The proposal follows an earlier unsolicited approach from NAS priced at 460p per share.The shares closed last night at 334p, valuing the company at £308m.

The board said that together with its financial advisers, Goldman Sachs International, it has unanimously rejected the latest offer, as “entirely opportunistic, conditional and that the terms fundamentally undervalue Menzies and its future prospects”.

Full story here

7am: LV= talks off

Royal London said  discussions between Royal London and LV= on the potential for a mutual merger have ceased.

Barry O’Dwyer, group chief executive of Royal London, said: “Mutuals are owned by their customers and are run for their benefit.

“Our offer to preserve LV=’s mutuality through a merger with Royal London was based on an understanding that LV= did not have a viable future as an independent company. 

Full story here

7am: CCO for iomart

Iomart Group, the Glasgow-based cloud computing and managed services company, has appointed Ben Savage as chief commercial officer.

Mr Savage has spent more than 25 years working in a range of technology-based sales leadership roles in Silicon Valley, Europe, and the Middle East. His most recent position was managing director, sales and marketing at managed service provider Six Degrees.

… more follows

Global markets

The FTSE 100 was expected to continue a rally of key stock markets elsewhere.

Asian markets offered support to the US which enjoyed a strong showing with all major indices finishing strongly last night.

Japan’s Nikkei advanced 1.08% whilst Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose by nearly 2%. The Shanghai Composite was 0.9% higher.

This followed an uplift on Wall Street where the Dow Jones rose 1.06%, the S&P 500 added 0.84% and the Nasdaq gained 1.28%.

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