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Pets At Home boosted by home workers; Aviva hits Q1 record

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5pm: Rolls-Royce and Aviva among gainers

Traders struggled for direction in a quiet session on the London market, leaving the FTSE 100 down 7.26 points (0.1%) at 7,019.67.

Rolls-Royce rose 3.9% after Airbus said aircraft production would be increased on the back of recovery in the aviation sector.

Melrose and Meggitt also traded higher, by 3.63% and 3.09%, respectively, while insurer Aviva gained 3.23% after a positive first quarter.

Following recent falls Ferrexpo leapt 5.74%, as iron prices rebounded.

Pets at Home Group managed a 0.04% uplift as it increased its final dividend by 10% and predicted a big jump in annual profit, after reporting strong trading fuelled by people buying pets during the pandemic.


8.45am: FTSE flat

Blue chips were showing no movement in early trade with the FTSE 100 at 7,027.75, up just +0.82 points.


7am: Pets At Home rises on pet demand

Pets at Home benefited from the pet-buying trend by posting an increase in sales in what it called “an extraordinary year” for the business.

The retailer reported a 35.5% spike in statutory pre-tax profit to £116.4m during the 52 weeks to 25 March. On an underlying basis, stripping out the £30.2m it made from the sale of its specialist referral centres, profits fell 6.4% to £87.5m as it encountered higher costs linked to the pandemic.

Group sales climbed 7.9% to £1.14bn during the period, as like-for-likes jumped 8.7%. 

It is proposing a final dividend of 5.5p making a total dividend for the year of 8p per share, up 7% on the prior year.

Management guided to underlying pre-tax profit for the current 53-week financial year to 31 March 2022 of £120-130m, which would be an increase of at least 37%.

“Covid-19 has structurally changed the dynamics of the pet care market,” said chief executive Peter Pritchard.


7am: Aviva boosted at Q1

Aviva

Aviva has delivered its highest insurance first quarter insurance sales for a decade, while savings and retirement flows hit a quarterly record.

The company said its core general insurance gross written premiums grew 4% to £2 billion.

Net flows in Savings & Retirement increased by 31% and Aviva Investors is seeing improving flows and investment performance.

Savings & Retirement sales grew 23% driven by strong performance across both Workplace and Platform. Sales in its workplace division grew 22%, driven by new scheme members which were up 61,000 to 3.9m in the period. In its platform business, sales jumped 26% buoyed by improved consumer confidence and pent-up demand.

Annuities & Equity Release sales were 52% lower, reflecting a particularly strong start to 2020 and lower volumes of bulk purchase annuity transactions in the market at the start of 2021

Amanda Blanc, group chief executive, said: “We are now focused on improving the growth and profitability of our businesses in the UK, Ireland, Canada and Aviva Investors. We are pleased with the growing momentum in key areas as we capitalise on our leading market positions.”


7am: Daily Mail falls

Adjusted profit before tax in the half year to 31 March slumped 20% and underlying revenue fell 12% at at the Daily Mail & General Trust, owner of the Daily Mail newspaper, consumer titles and events businesses.

Advertising is difficult to predict as usual, with circulation revenues expected to be resilient, helped by the Daily Mail cover price increase.

Despite the planned occurrence of two major physical events in September 2021, trading conditions for the events business “are likely to remain very challenging”.

Paul Zwillenberg, CEO, said: “DMGT delivered a solid performance in the first half of the year.  We achieved strong underlying growth in revenue and profits from our B2B Information Services businesses, where Property Information was a highlight. 

“Within Consumer Media, there was good revenue and profit growth from MailOnline and a solid performance from the Mail print titles driving profit growth for the Mail businesses whilst, unsurprisingly, Metro and our Events business continued to be impacted by the pandemic.”


Global markets

The FTSE 100 looks likely to open largely flat on what is a relatively quiet day for corporate news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Wednesday just 10 points higher while the S&P 500 was up 0.19% and the Nasdaq managed a 0.59%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei was 0.61% lower, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.31% while the Shanghai Composite rose slightly, up 0.23%.



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