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Monday Update

DB Live: Primark strong; Omega soars; Parkmead; markets

4.45pm: Market recovers

London staged a strong recovery from last week’s tech-induced falls as traders responded to the falling pound to push the FTSE 100 index 138.32 points (2.39%) higher at 5,937.40.

The pound plunged 0.92% against the US dollar as traders feared the UK and the EU might not strike a Brexit deal, hitting bank stocks.

FTSE 250 bus and trains outfit FirstGroup shot up 10.69p (26.89%) to 50.45p on speculation that private equity interests are mulling a bid for the company’s school buses business.

On Aim, Omega Diagnostics, the Scottish medical testing company, surged 11p (20.56%) to 64.5p after reporting the completion of a volunteer study of Covid testing kits (see below).

However, at 2.33pm the company said a statement issued by BBI Solutions regarding an order from the UK Government and successful independent evaluations in relation to the AbC-19™ test developed by the UK-RTC “was released by BBI in error and contained incorrect information”.

It added: “The statement has been withdrawn by BBI and should be disregarded. Any future updates on potential UK Government orders or the outcome of independent evaluations will be disclosed to shareholders once these are concluded.”

3.30pm: Greek Islands on quarantine list

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced that seven Greek islands are being stripped of quarantine exempt status for England amid fears over a spike in coronavirus cases.

He revealed that Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos are being added to the ‘red’ list as of 4am on Wednesday.

However, Mr Shapps said he would not be following Scotland by imposing restrictions on arrivals from Greece as a whole.

11am: Cancer test funding

A university spin-out has received £2.4 million from existing investors to support the further development of its cancer testing technology.

Full story here

8.30am: London ticks up

London shares were marked higher as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit mounted.

After sliding at the end of last week, the FTSE 100 turned positive, led by an upbeat forecast from Primark owner ABF which rose 6%. Builders also ticked up, with Taylor Wimpey gaining 1.8%.

The FTSE 100 was 64.7 points (1.12%) higher at 5,863.79.

7am: Primark reports strong sales

Primark

Associated British Foods, owner of Primark, Allied Bakeries and Twinings, said trading in the fourth quarter in its food businesses and its Primark high street retail business exceeded expectations.

All Primark stores reopened during May, June and July and trading during the fourth quarter has been strong, said ABF in a trading update.

In the UK sales since reopening are expected to be 12% lower on a like-for-like basis and if the four large UK destination city centre stores are excluded the decline is 5%. 

In the latest four-week UK market data for sales in all channels Primark achieved its highest ever value and volume shares for this time of year.

“By store the performance has varied, reflecting the current circumstances of our customers including increased home working, less commuting and much less tourism,” said the company.

“Sales at our stores in retail parks are higher than a year ago.  Shopping centre and regional high street stores are broadly in line with last year and large destination city centre stores, which are heavily reliant on tourism and commuters, have seen a significant decline in footfall.  Our 16 largest destination city centre stores contributed 13% of total sales pre-COVID-19 and 8% of sales after reopening.”

Omega Covid study

Omega Diagnostics

Omega, the medical diagnostics company, says a study on 2,000 volunteers over the weekend on a COVID-19 rapid self-test has been completed.

The Scottish company said it remains on track to have production capacity in place this month to produce an initial 100,000 tests per week, scaling up to 200,000 tests per week capacity in October. If demand goes above 200,000 tests per week, either from the UK Government, or from other third parties, the company would allocate additional capacity to meet demand.

The UK Rapid Test Consortium (UK-RTC) was formed in April, when Omega signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Abingdon Health, BBI Solutions and CIGA Healthcare, in conjunction with the University of Oxford, to jointly develop and manufacture a COVID-19 Rapid Test as part of the UK Government’s five pillar national testing strategy for disease.

Colin King, CEO of Omega, commented: “We are progressing towards our goal of MHRA approval for self-test home use. We cannot give a timescale for when this might be achieved but we look forward to updating shareholders on further developments.”

Parkmead awarded blocks

Parkmead, the independent energy group focused on growth through gas, oil and renewable energy projects, has been offered four offshore blocks and part blocks spanning three new licences in the UK 32nd Licensing Round awards.  

Tom Cross, executive chairman, said the awards “have the potential to extend the Company’s asset base as we develop into a balanced energy group.”

6am: Subsea firm buyout

An Aberdeen subsea engineering firm has been acquired by its management.

A team led by Matt Blair acquired the J&S Subsea operation from the Cohort defence technology business, for an undisclosed sum.

Today’s agenda

* Fintech Festival opens and runs until 5 October

* Students return to Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Highlands and Islands

Today’s top Daily Business headlines

Outrage over UK plan to over-ride Brexit agreement

Profits dip in solid year at Shepherd and Wedderburn

Djokovic thrown out of US Open after ball hits judge



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