Market report

Weir buys AI firm | Macfarlane | FirstGroup | Virgin Money

Jon Stanton

Weir, the Glasgow-headquartered mining technology company, has acquired SentianAI, a Sweden-based developer of AI solutions that optimise performance in minerals processing.

The deal will accelerate Weir’s digital capability, said the company.

SentianAI, founded in 2016, is based in Malmö and has a team of software developers and data scientists.

Weir CEO Jon Stanton, pictured, said: “Digital technology has an important role in helping address the challenges of declining ore grades, production efficiency, and CO2 emissions for our customers.”


Virgin Money

Virgin Money

Shares in Virgin Money UK, owner of the former Clydesdale Bank, fell by 10.25p, or 6.5%, to 146.75p after it posted full-year profit below market estimates.

Underlying earnings slumped 24% to £593m, compared with a forecast of £625m by analysts in a company-compiled consensus. At a statutory level, pre-tax profit came in 42% lower at £345m.

The bank also announced an additional share buyback plan of £150m.

David Duffy, chief executive, said: “We made good progress executing our strategy in 2023, growing both our relationship customer base and target lending segments.

“With the momentum we carry into 2024, we are confident in the outlook for our business and we expect to deliver around £800m in distributions to our investors by the end of the three-year period ending in 2024.

“Under the Virgin brand, our ambition is to create the UK’s best digital bank. To help achieve this goal, we are stepping up investment in our technological capability to future proof our business and protect our customers from the growing risk of fraud strategies driven by advances in AI.”

Investor backlash


Macfarlane

Macfarlane lorry

Packaging group Macfarlane said it expects adjusted profit before tax for 2023 to be ahead of last year and in line with its full year expectations.

In a trading update it said revenue year to date is 2% below the same period last year, with weaker volumes and lower pricing impacting most sectors.

These impacts are being offset by improved new business performance, effective management of pricing and costs, and the completion of three acquisitions, all of which are performing well.

Good progress is being made in Europe, with a strong contribution from PackMann acquired in 2022, and continuing organic growth.

Net bank funds at 31 October 2023 were £3.7m (30 June 2023: Net bank debt of £3.3m).


FirstGroup

FirstGreat Western

Bus and train operator FirstGroup said group adjusted operating profit increased to £100.6m (H1 2023: £66.1m) and it increased its Interim dividend to 1.5p per share (H1 2023: 0.9p per share).

Chief executive Graham Sutherland said: “I am pleased to report another set of very strong results for the first half of our 2024 financial year.

“First Bus is delivering sustainable revenue growth as we continue to transform the business and our First Rail division also performed well. This is testament to the capabilities and continued hard work of all our teams across the group.

“We are a resilient and profitable business which is well-positioned to create long-term, value-accretive growth.

“Leveraging our leading positions in bus and rail, supported by our strong balance sheet enables us to continue to play a critical role in supporting governments’ economic, societal and environmental goals.”



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