Market report

Aviva hikes payout | Calnex optimistic | Balfour Beatty


Amanda Blanc, group chief executive of Aviva, said the group was delivering “consistently strong and profitable growth” which was a direct result of decisions over the last three years to re-focus the company.

Group operating profit up 8% to £715m (HY22: £661m) and the interim dividend is also up 8% to 11.1p (HY22: 10.3p). A £300m buyback was executed in the first half.

Ms Blanc said:” “Today, Aviva has leading positions in growing markets, providing strong resilience in the current economic climate.”

In the UK & Ireland, general insurance premiums were up 13%, with healthy sales in commercial and personal lines businesses. In Wealth, its Workplace business grew net flows by 25%. We continue to see very strong demand for private health insurance, with sales increasing by 58% as we expanded our services to corporate and individual customers,” said Ms Blanc.

The Canadian general insurance business saw sales 12% higher as a result of a strong performance in commercial lines, and the continued success of a local banking partnership.

“We expect to make further strong progress with our clear strategy, growth opportunities in all of our markets, and the £1 billion investment well underway to accelerate our future performance,” said Ms Blanc.

Retail sales fall

Wet weather and high inflation hit retail sales across Scotland in July, according to new figures.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG data said that, adjusted for inflation, there was 3% year-on-year decline of all retail sales.

Sales of summer food and clothing ranges were among the hardest hit.

Balfour Beatty

The board of Balfour Beatty said revenues rose 9% year-on-year to £4.5bn. Underlying profit from operations for earnings-based businesses grew 12% to £95m, while group profit from operations decreased 6% due to the timing of disposals and reduced profit in infrastructure Investments.

Underlying profit before tax saw an increase of 13%, and underlying earnings per share reached 13p, a slight increase from 12.9p a year earlier.

Calnex Solutions

Tommy Cook of Calnex

Calnex Solutions, the Linlithgow-based telecoms testing and measurement company, said investment caution is giving way to optimism with regard to the pipeline for the second half.

Indicators across the wider industry also point to a cautiously improving outlook, it said in an update ahead of today’s AGM.

The board said it remains confident in the delivery of results for the year in line with current market expectations.

Calnex continues to focus on expanding its business footprint, through both application focused promotions of existing products, as well as new product innovation.

The company’s ability to source the components required for its products continues to improve and, whilst not yet resolved, the financial performance of the company in FY24 is not expected to be impacted by procurement issues.

The board remains confident that the market’s structural growth drivers will continue to drive long-term growth opportunities for Calnex.

These include the need to build out new mobile networks to support the transition to 5G, and ongoing data centre investment to support the demand for cloud computing and advancements in artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies, coupled with the need to be more energy efficient.

The company said the breadth of its customer base across multiple regions, and the group’s expanding product portfolio and strong balance sheet, mean it looks to the future with continued confidence.

London close

NatWest slid 7.25p to 226.5p amid concerns that further interest rate rises will pile the pressure on banks to improve the rates they pay to savers.

Rate-sensitive housebuilders were also under the cosh, with Barratt Developments down a further 7p to 441.25p, while Persimmon gave up 13.5p to 1058.5p.

Marks & Spencer’s turnaround caught the eye and investors snapped up more of the high street retailer’s shares, which rose 10p to 231.5p.

Insurance groups motored higher with Admiral‘s strong set of half-year results lifting it to the top of the senior index, rising 159p to 2358p. Direct Line was 10.75p higher at 162p.

The FTSE 100 fell for a fourth day in a row, losing 32.76 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 7,356.88

Wall Street

US stocks closed lower, with the biggest drops coming from the technology-centric Nasdaq Composite.

The Federal Reserve’s minutes from its July meeting were released late in the session, showing that a majority of senior officials now expected “upside inflation risks”.

The Nasdaq Composite took the hardest hit, shrinking by 1.15%. the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.52%, while the S&P 500 was 0.76% lower.

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