Market report

Phoenix sells Ark Life | Omega awaits DHSC | Craneware upbeat


5pm: London curbed by US inflation

Stronger than expected US inflation, up 5.4% over the past 12 months, its highest since August 2008, trimmed gains among FTSE 100 stocks.

The index finished the day down 0.7 points, or  0.01%, at 7,124, well below the session peak of 7,152 and nearer the low of 7,116.

NatWest Group was among the big losers, shedding 2.66% to 201.30p, despite the Bank of England’s decision to remove restrictions on dividend payouts.

3pm: Statement on Covid easing

Businesses are seeking clarity on how they should operate after Nicola Sturgeon confirmed today that Scotland’s Covid-19 restrictions can be eased.

See list of changes and business responded

9am: Banks lead charge

Banks led the market higher after the Bank of England removed dividend restrictions on the sector.

The FTSE 100 was up 19 points (0.27%) at 7,144.59 after the Bank said it was lifting restrictions on dividend payouts introduced in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic as the sector remains “well-capitalised” and “resilient”.

HSBCNatWestLloyds and Barclays all rallied.

7am: Phoenix sells Ark Life

Insurer Phoenix Group said it had sold its Ark Life Assurance unit, a closed book of heritage policies, to Irish Life for €230m (£197m).

It was acquired by Phoenix as part of the ReAssure acquisition last year.

“This transaction simplifies our European operations and accelerates the cash release from this business. The group expects to redeploy the capital into higher return growth opportunities to drive incremental future cash generation,” the company said in a statement.

Phoenix said it continued to progress “a range of management actions to maximise shareholder value from its remaining European business, Standard Life International DAC, which provides strategic optionality to the group over the longer term”.

7am: Omega awaits DHSC deal

Omega Diagnostics

The diagnostics company said it was still awaiting confirmation from the Department of Health and Social Care to go ahead with manufacturing lateral flow antigen tests for Covid-19.

“Currently this selection process by the DHSC is taking longer than we originally expected and we are waiting for confirmation on which test we will be required to manufacture,” said chairman Simon Douglas in a statement with annual results.

“While we are not in control of this process, we remain in regular dialogue with the DHSC to provide manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 lateral flow antigen tests, utilising the key pieces of manufacturing equipment loaned by the UK Government for that purpose.”

The Scottish company reported a pre-tax losses for the year of £3.5 million, compared to year-on-year losses of £8.3 million.

The EBITDA loss came in at £2.2m (2020: profit of £0.9m). Revenue fell 11% to £8.7 million but improved in the second half and the company had a strong cash position at the year-end of £5.8m.

Kieron Harbinson, group finance director, will step down from his position after 19 years of service with the Company and will be replaced by Chris Lea as chief financial officer. Mr Lea most recently held the same position at IndigoVision Group and was previously finance director at Superglass Holdings.

Chris Lea appointment here

7am: Craneware seeing positive momentum

Keith Neilson

Healthcare software company Craneware said the positive sales momentum experienced in the first half of the year continued into the second half, with the board expecting a 40% increase in new sales to $42 million for the year to the end of June.

Total Revenue and adjusted EBITDA for the year is expected to have increased by greater than 5% and 6% respectively (FY20: Revenue $71.5m: adj. EBITDA $25.2m).

The Edinburgh-based group’s customer retention rate has remained above 90%, building the foundation for a return to double-digit organic growth.

It has successfully completed the acquisition of Sentry, a leader in pharmacy procurement, compliance and utilisation management, providing immediate additional scale to Craneware’s operations.

Craneware now serves nearly 40% of US hospitals and more than 10,000 clinics and retail pharmacies across all the major pharmacy brands as well as local community pharmacies and clinics.

CEO Keith Neilson, pictured, commented: “We are pleased by the continued positive sale performance in the year and strong adoption of our Trisus platform.”

He said the acquisition of Sentry Data Systems marks a “transformational point in our journey”, considerably expanding the customer base, data sets, product offering and market presence.

“Together, we will offer healthcare organisations innovative new ways to measurably impact operational and financial performance and generate sustainable margins that can be re-invested in providing better care for those who are in need.

“Our expanded opportunity and positive sales momentum provide us with considerable excitement and confidence as we work with the Sentry team to transform the business of US healthcare.”

Global markets

London traders were looking at a quiet day with few corporate announcements after Wall Street’s three major indices closed at record highs.

Asian markets were also positive this morning as that latest China trade figures showed a slowdown in imports but an unexpected rise in exports.

The Shanghai Composite in China gained 0.3% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index surged 1.7%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.56% and South Korea’s Kospi lifted 0.77%.

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