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Aston Martin; BAE Systems; Centrica; Drax; Macfarlane

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4.30pm: Commodities underpin FTSE 100

The FTSE 100 ended the session 7 points lower, a 0.1% dip, at 6,652, having been supported during the day by the dominance of commodity stocks.

Wall Street opened lower and weighed on trader sentiment in London after better-than-expected jobless figures and durable goods orders. This unnerved some investors who are concerned that it could mean inflation will start to tick up and prompt tighter monetary policy.

Evraz – the biggest rise on the FTSE 100 – was up 5.95% to 598.4p while Cairn Energy rose by 2.78% to 199.3p.

Standard Chartered was one of the day’s biggest fallers after it revealed that its profits were cut by more than half.

Aston Martin’s shares jumped despite the luxury car manufacturer posting a slump in annual sales and profits (see below), as its latest revenue figures came in ahead of expectations. Shares climbed by 136p to 2,137p as a result.

The price of oil jumped to a 13-month high earlier on Thursday before losing steam to sit broadly flat after general trading sentiment took a downturn.

The price of Brent crude oil decreased by 0.03% to $66.99 per barrel.

12.30pm: Asda consults on job restructuring

Asda will see its payroll rise as it restructures the workforce to meet a shift towards online deliveries.

Full story here

10.30am: Consequential funding allocated

All £8.6 billion of consequential funding guaranteed to the Scottish Government for 2020-21 has been allocated to tackling the pandemic, a new budget update confirms today.

The Spring Budget Revision (SBR) details a further £2.5 billion of coronavirus (COVID-19) spending since September.

This includes £780 million for business support, taking the total to more than £3 billion in the current financial year, and an additional £494 million to health and sport, while £745 million has been reprioritised within existing budgets to help deal with the impact of COVID-19.

During the year, the Scottish Government has also deployed a total of £100 million of resource and capital funding from the Scotland Reserve.

9am: STC Insiso Canada deal

Aberdeen-based STC Insiso has signed a partnership agreement with Canadian firm Hatley Engineering and Applied Technologies to distribute its Comet investigation, prevention and root cause analysis package to the Canadian and North American markets. 

It is the latest in a series of global distributor partnerships secured by STC Insiso over the last 12 months.

8.30am: Edinburgh plan

£32m traffic-free George Street plan: see fly-through video here

8.15am: Blue chips higher

The FTSE 100 opened higher at 6,688.85, up 29.88 points (0.45%). Overseas market update below.

7am: Aston Martin Lagonda

Showroom sales at Aston Martin fell 32% to 4,150 as the company saw losses deepen, offset by strong demand for the new DBX SUV in the final quarter.

The company reported an operating loss of £323 million which includes £98m of adjusting operating items, largely the impairment of capitalised R&D due to technology and cycle plan changes.

The bottom line loss came in at £466m after a loss of £119.6m in the previous year.

Tobias Moers, who was appointed chief executive last year, said his first priority was launching the company’s first SUV, the DBX (pictured). “Demand is strong and we have wholesaled 1,516 units,” he said.

“Actions were already underway on rebalancing supply to demand for GT and Sports cars, where we have made tremendous progress and are ahead of plan with encouraging signs for demand. Finally, Specials are integral to our plan.

“The era defining Aston Martin Valkyrie is a priority this year and we are on track for deliveries to start in the second half.”

Revenue for the year to the end of December fell 38% to £611.8m from £980.5m.

Lawrence Stroll, executive chairman, said 2020 had been a “transformative year” for Aston Martin, adding he was “extremely pleased” with the progress to date and he is “confident in the future success of Aston Martin as we transform the company to be one of the greatest luxury car brands in the world.”

Drax considers Cruachan expansion

Power group Drax would consider creating another turbine hall at Cruachan if the government was prepared to offered incentives.

The turbines at Cruachan are driven by water as it flows from a reservoir in the hills to Loch Awe.

Drax acquired Cruachan along with a portfolio containing other assets in Scotland from ScottishPower in a £700m deal in 2018. It says expansion would help the UK reach its net zero targets.

It has scrapped controversial plans to swap coal-burning units for gas turbines at its plant in North Yorkshire after opposition from environmental groups.

It reported a £156m operating loss for 2020, after recording a total charge of £239m from the cancelled gas project and writing off the value of its remaining coal inventories, and counting the £34m cost of closing its coal burning units.

Virgin Wines IPO

Virgin Wines, one of the UK’s largest direct-to-consumer online wine retailers, priced its shares at 197p in a placing that will raise gross proceeds of £34.9 million for the selling shareholders and £13 million for the company.

It will be valued at £110 million on admission to the AIM on 2 March.

Primark: trading update

Retail chain Primark’s sales for the half year are estimated to be c.£2.2bn, compared to £3.7bn in the first half of the last financial year.

Owner ABF expects the adjusted operating profit for Primark in the first half to be marginally above break-even, which would compare to an adjusted operating profit of £441m for the same period in the last financial year

Centrica

British and Scottish Gas owner Centrica posted adjusted operating profit from continuing operations (excluding Direct Energy) for the year down 31% to £447m.

Britain’s largest energy supplier also reported a £362m loss from continuing operations for last year, but this was less than the £783million loss posted for 2019.

The company said it would not propose a full year dividend for 2020 and would “recommence dividends to shareholders when it is prudent to do so”.

Centrica also announced a commitment to be a net zero firm by 2045, five years ahead of a previous target.

BAE Systems

Defence technology firm BAE Systems posted a £1bn rise in revenue to £19.3bn, last year with operating profit up by £31m to £1.9bn.

The company announced a final dividend of 14.3p per share making a total of 23.7p per share. The total of 37.5p per share for the year includes an interim dividend of 13.8p per share in respect of the year ended 31 December 2019, which was originally proposed as a 2019 final dividend but subsequently deferred in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charles Woodburn, chief executive , said: “We have delivered a strong set of results against a challenging backdrop of the global pandemic.

“In 2021, we will continue to drive operational performance, progress our sustainability agenda and invest in high-end discriminating technologies to meet our customers’ priorities, which will ensure we are well positioned to grow the business and contribute to the economic prosperity of the countries in which we operate.”

Macfarlane

Packaging group Macfarlane posted a 9.6% rise in annual profit before tax to £13m on a 2.1 % increase in sales to £230m.

The board is proposing a final dividend of 1.85p per share, amounting to a full year dividend of 2.55p per share, compared to the prior year dividend of 0.69p per share which was impacted by the cancellation of the proposed final dividend of 1.76p per share, as one of the key Covid-19 cash conservation measures.

Mackie’s of Scotland

Snack food brand Mackie’s of Scotland saw its revenue increase 1% to £16.7m and operating profits increase 61% to £3.4m in the year to the end of May.

Chocolate sales increased by 46% after recipe refinements helped secure further supermarket listings and buyer loyalty. 

Full story here

Markets

Wall Street rebounded after Federal Reserve officials talked down the threat of higher interest rates.

The Dow Jones rallied to mark a 1.35% gain whilst the S&P 500 climbed 1.14%. The Nasdaq notched a 0.99% rise.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei advanced around 1.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng moved 1.76% higher. The Shanghai Composite added 0.6%.



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