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FTSE 100 Live: Blue-chip index above 8000, house prices steady

 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

The FTSE 100 today made tentative progress at the start of a hectic week for blue-chip earnings.

A strong end to Friday trading in the US and a solid performance in Asia this morning helped to consolidate recent gains.

Elsewhere, data from Rightmove showed that house prices were flat in February.

FTSE 100 Live Monday

  • Darktrace orders third-party financial report

  • House prices flat ahead of spring selling season

  • Brewdog sets sights on China with new JV

London shares pick up in strong afternoon

15:08 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 has risen in the afternoon after a tentative morning and could achieve another record close.

The index of top London-listed companies hit 8019.45, and is currently trading at 8017.37, after spending the vast majority of the day just barely above 8000.

The FTSE closed at 8004.36 on Friday, the first time it finished above 8000..

London-based proptech company expands to US

15:04 , Joanna Hodgson

A London-headquartered ‘proptech’ company that helps developers with land buying insights, said it has secured £10 million in growth capital and expanded to the US, with a debut Florida office just launched.

LandTech, which was founded in 2014, provides insights and data around off-market development opportunities, such as potential costs on projects and the likelihood of schemes getting planning permission.

The firm said it has secured latest growth capital, £10 million, from Canada’s CIBC Innovation Banking.

Read more here

Is London finally rising beyond Brexit?

14:31 , Jonathan Prynn

More evidence today of how confidence in the broader economy — and London in particular — is surging back: Savills reported this morning that investment in the City property market last month was the highest for a January since 2016.

And what was happening at the start of that year? Well not very much by recent standards.

The FTSE 100 had just ended 2015 at an all-time high after a second consecutive year of solid GDP growth well above Britain’s par of 2%. Britain was steadily pulling away from the wreckage of the financial crash and then Chancellor George Osborne was homing in on a budget surplus on day-to-day spending.

We did not appreciate it at the time, Jonathan Prynn writes, but it was the calm before the storm.

Read more here

Tesco to pay London workers £11.95 an hour

13:37 , Daniel O'Boyle

Tesco hourly workers in London will be paid £11.95 per hour, after retail union Usdaw negotiated a new pay deal with the supermarket.

Employees within London will receive almost £1 more per hour than under the previous agreement, which offered pay of £11.02.

However, those working within the M25 but outside of London itself will be paid £11.75. These workers had previously received the same pay as workers in London boroughs.

Workers in the rest of the UK will be paid £11.02 per hour, up from £10.30.

Read more here

Planet Organic mulls potential sell-off

11:44 , Rhiannon Curry

Upmarket grocery chain Planet Organic has reportedly appointed City advisers to explore a sale of the business.

The company — founded in 1995 by Renée Elliott and popular with London celebrities including actors Suranne Jones and Emilia Clarke — is said to be working with financial adviser Interpath on a review of its strategic options.

Planet Organic trades from 13 stores, mostly in London, selling organic food and drink as well as healthcare and cosmetic products. It has recently closed outlets on Torrington Place in Fitzrovia and in Wandsworth having been hit by lower footfall in city centres and a general slowdown caused by the pandemic.

This contributed to its losses widening from £2.5 million in 2020 to £3.4 million in 2021, and revenues fell almost 8% to £37.6 million in the year to August 28 2021.

A spokesperson for Planet Organic told Sky News: “We are working closely with our advisers to help us navigate options to secure further investment.”

Disinfection business Tristel turns profit in 2022

11:04 , Daniel O'Boyle

Disinfection product manufacturer Tristel turned a profit in 2022, after launching in the US and Canada.

Revenue was up 16% to £17.5 million, while margins also improved, allowing the business to make a pre-tax profit of £2.4 million, compared to a £1.2 million loss last year.

Tristel shares were up 5.3% on the AIM this morning to 331.8p.

“We are delighted to have increased sales by 16% on the first half of last year, above our long-term target for revenue growth,” CEO Paul Swinney said. “In all regions the level of diagnostic examinations utilising our products is significantly higher than before the commencement of the pandemic.

“The growth prospects for the Group are stronger than ever and we look to the future with confidence.”

NatWest under pressure, Trifast slides on profit warning

10:20 , Graeme Evans

NatWest shares today came under more selling pressure on the back of Friday’s results-day slump.

The former RBS business lost another 2.2p at 282.4p, whereas Barclays lifted 2.3p to 175.8p and UK-focused rival Lloyds Banking Group added half a penny to 51.4p ahead of its own annual results on Wednesday.

Despite its biggest profit since the financial crash and more chunky shareholder returns, NatWest lost 7% of its value on Friday after chief executive Alison Rose disappointed the City with the bank’s 2023 margin guidance.

Today’s fall came as NatWest formally launched its plan to buy up to £800 million of its shares in a programme set to take the next five months.

More blue-chip buybacks are due to be announced this week, including by Lloyds as the earnings season gets into full swing. Other companies due to report include Rio Tinto and Anglo American, with both mining stocks 1.5% higher in advance of their updates.

The FTSE 100 index held firm at 3.64 points higher at 8008, but volumes were lighter than usual due to a public holiday on Wall Street. Sports Direct owner Frasers led the top flight, adding 23p to 792.5p after announcing plans to buy back another £80 million of shares.

The FTSE 250 stood 35.78 points lower at 20,053.15, with online fashion chain ASOS down 2% or 16p to 818p.

One of the biggest falls came in the FTSE All-Share as industrial fastenings firm Trifast issued a profit warning and said chief executive Mark Belton had left after 23 years with the group and eight years as boss.

The company, which employs 1,300 people, blamed significant destocking by one of its Asian manufacturing customers as it warned results for the year to 31 March will be significantly short of City forecasts. Shares slumped 45% or 41.6p to 50.4p.

On a brighter note, Harland & Wolff shares rose 0.13p to 14.75p after the Belfast shipyard owner announced six contract wins within the defence, cruise and ferry and commercial fabrication markets.

And challenger law firm Keystone Law rose 9% or 42.5p to 530p as it said revenues and profits for the financial year just finished will be ahead of City forecasts.

Brewdog sets sights on China with new JV

09:57 , Daniel O'Boyle

Craft brewery Brewdog is aiming to crack the Chinese market through a new joint venture with Budweiser China.

Brewdog China will use Budweiser’s sales and distribution network in order to sell beers such as Brewdog’s Punk IPA and Elvis Juice. It aims to start selling its products in China next month.

Craft brewery Brewdog is aiming to crack the Chinese market through a new joint venture with Budweiser China. (Simon Jacobs/PA) (PA Wire)
Craft brewery Brewdog is aiming to crack the Chinese market through a new joint venture with Budweiser China. (Simon Jacobs/PA) (PA Wire)

The announcement follows the opening of a Brewdog-branded rooftop bar in Las Vegas at the end of last year.

“Chinese drinkers love craft beer, but the sector is still very new,” Brewdog founder James Watt said. “In Budweiser China, we have found a partner that shares our growth vision for BrewDog in China and is perfectly placed to support our rapid growth in the region.”

Lush in legal dispute with ex-boss over £217m share sale

08:36 , Daniel O'Boyle

Hand-made cosmetics retailer Lush has been plunged into a legal dispute with a business set up by its former chief executive Andrew Gerrie over the sale of Gerrie’s stake in Lush.

Silverwood Brands - a company set up last year that lists Gerrie as a director - announced in December that it had acquired a 19.8% stake in Lush - which has 106 UK shops and 937 in total - from Gerrie and his wife Alison Hawksley for £216.8m.

At the time of the deal, Silverwood specifically noted that it had acquired the shares for “the applicable minimum prices” that Lush’s articles of associations would allow them to be sold for.

Read more here

Mixed start for FTSE 100, Brent crude higher

08:19 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is broadly flat at 8004, with investors opting to stay on the sidelines ahead of blue-chip earnings later this week.

Asia markets finished in positive territory after China’s central bank left its key lending rate unchanged for the sixth month in a row.

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Susannah Streeter said: “For now, it seems optimism about the recovery of demand in China is outweighing worries about a slowing US economy, with stocks on Chinese indices buoyed by the status quo decision to keep rates on hold.”

“This has helped push up the price of crude oil, off the back of expectations that companies in China will be hungry for more energy, particularly as consumer sentiment rebounds.

“On the supply side, the threat of fresh sanctions and export controls on the Russian energy and financial sectors are also supporting oil prices, with Brent Crude trading up 0.7%, above $83 a barrel.”.

In London, NatWest was among those under pressure as shares fell 1.8p to 282.8p after tumbling on Friday due to the lender’s cautious guidance on 2023 trading. Lloyds Banking Group, which reports figures on Wednesday, rose 0.4p to 51.3p.

FTSE 100 seen higher, earnings and US rates in focus

07:34 , Graeme Evans

With US markets shut for the Presidents’ Day holiday, traders in Europe are braced for a subdued session today.

The FTSE 100 index closed above 8000 on Friday and is forecast by CMC Markets to open 22 points higher at 8026.

The drop in volumes is likely to be short lived, however, with more clues due this week on the next rates move by the Federal Reserve.

Minutes from this month’s meeting are due on Wednesday, followed by Friday’s figures showing the central bank’s favoured measure of inflation.

This week’s earnings line-up includes banking giants Lloyds and HSBC, plus the miners Anglo America and Rio Tinto. Globally, there are figures from US retailers Walmart and Home Depot and China's tech giants Baidu and Alibaba.

Darktrace orders third-party report into finances as it battles short-seller report

07:27 , Simon Hunt

Darktrace has ordered an external report into its finances in a bid to fend off a short-seller reort questioning the validity of its financial statements.

The cybersecurity firm has appointed accountancy firm Ernst & Young to provide an additional independent third-party review of its key financial processes and controls.

In a 70-page report released last month, New York-based Quintessential Capital Management said it was “deeply skeptical” about the validity of Darktrace's financial statements and expressed its “fear that sales, margins, and growth rates may be overstated and close to a sharp correction.”

Darktrace has denied the allegations raised in the report.

Darktrace chair Gordon Hurst, said: “The Board believes fully in the robustness of Darktrace’s financial processes and controls.

“As a sign of that confidence, we have commissioned this independent third-party review by E&Y. We look forward to the outcome of this review.”

House prices flat ahead of spring selling season

07:16 , Graeme Evans

The usual spike in house prices ahead of the spring selling season appears to be absent this year, Rightmove said today.

The property portal said the average price increased by just £14 month-on-month in February as sellers broke with tradition and showed unseasonal restraint.

It is the smallest increase recorded by Rightmove between January and February, in records going back to 2001. Across Britain, the average asking price for a home in February is £362,452, it said.

Read more on the Rightmove report

Recap: Friday’s top stories

06:56 , Daniel O'Boyle

Good morning. Here’s a summary of our top stories from Friday.

  • NatWest made its highest profits since the financial crash and chief executive Alison Rose also cashed in, with a leap in pay from £3.6 million to £5.2 million.

  • Online estate agent PurpleBricks could be sold as the business launched a strategic review and announced a profit warning alongside yet another round of redundancies.

  • Prime West End office rents have jumped 19% over a year to be well ahead of pre-pandemic levels, as businesses hunt for the most desirable space, fresh research shows.