Market report

Pearson rises on bid | Ocado | Parsley Box | Omega


4.30pm: FTSE 100 holds on to gains

The FTSE 100 closed 56.55 points higher at 7,155.64 as investors fuelled a mini rally on the back of better GDP figures.

Shares in of Pearson surged more than 19% after the UK education publisher rejected a £7 billion takeover bid from private equity group Apollo.

Berkeley Group closed up 1.3% after the housebuilder backed annual guidance and said high sales pricing is absorbing rising construction costs.

Online retailer firm Ocado was up 1.48% after it won the latest round of its intellectual property battle with AutoStore.

The International Trade Commission has ruled in favour of Ocado, meaning the focus now shifts to a UK High Court case which starts next week.

“Fighting over patent infringement has been a major distraction for Ocado and may have acted as a deterrent for new customers signing up to its logistics platform. Not helping its cause on this front have been two fires caused by its warehouse bots,” said Russ Mould, director at AJ Bell.

“If Ocado can finally prove it isn’t copying someone else’s set-up, and that its bots are safe, it stands a better chance of accelerating the number of new customer sign-ups – something the market has been demanding ever since the pandemic showed the importance of having a robust, efficient online grocery operation.”

GDP rebounds strongly

Britain’s economy rebounded from the Covid restrictions more strongly than expected in January, though forecasts have already been eclipsed by the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The data today may influence Bank of England policymakers who meet next week to decide interest rates but the Ukraine conflict now has to be factored in to policymaking.

Full story here

Air travel still well down

Heathrow said overall passenger numbers through Britain’s biggest airport last month remained nearly 50% down on pre-pandemic levels with only 2.8 million passengers travelling through during February, 15% below forecast.

Full story here

Parsley Box placing successful

Parsley Box, the ready meals service, said it had successfully placed shares at 20p per share, raising £5.9m in gross proceeds to be used for expansion and to bolster its balance sheet.

The company’s open offer will raise a further £1.1m gross and is subject to a vote at a general meeting on 31 March.

Details of placing and open offer here

Omega setback

Medical testing firm Omega Diagnostics has been informed by the UK Health Security Agency that the application for approval of its professional-use COVID-19 Antigen test has been unsuccessful, and accordingly the product will not be available for sale in the general UK market.

The Alva-based company said it does not plan to commission further studies at this time. 

Jag Grewal, CEO, commented:  “Whilst this is clearly disappointing, our plans do not include any contribution from COVID-19 antigen tests, as we focus the business on driving growth in our Health & Nutrition division.”

Global markets

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed down 2.1%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was 0.2% higher, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was down 2.1%.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.3%, the S&P 500 0.4%, and the Nasdaq Composite slid 1%.

Brent oil was quoted at $110.06 a barrel on Friday morning in London, down from $112.45 late Thursday.

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