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Trending tickers: Aviva | Admiral | M&S | Tesla

The latest investor updates on stocks that are trending on Wednesday

office workers sit in the sun on Aviva deckchairs outside the Aviva headquarters in London,
Aviva saw a 58% jump in health insurance sales, although this still makes up only a small part of its business with £84m in premiums. Photo: PA/Alamy (Chris Batson)

Aviva (AV.L)

Aviva shares rose 2.5% in London on Wednesday as operating profit rose by 8% to £715m in the first half, with growth across the group.

It beat profit expectations after analysts in a company-compiled consensus poll forecast operating profit of £701m.

The insurer said it saw a 58% jump in health insurance sales, although this still makes up only a small part of its business with £84m in premiums.

It increased the interim dividend by 8% to 11.1p, and estimates full-year operating profit growth of 5% to 7%.

"We expect to make further strong progress with our clear strategy, growth opportunities in all of our markets, and the £1bn investment well underway to accelerate our future performance," Amanda Blanc, chief executive offer, said.

“Aviva's performance and prospects have been transformed from just a few years ago. Today's Aviva is about delivery and momentum, and these results show that Aviva is consistently meeting its promises.

"We expect to exceed our financial targets and we are making progress each quarter, as we said we would. I remain confident and excited that there is so much more Aviva can and will achieve.”

Admiral (ADM.L)

Investors also cheered a rise in profits at Admiral, one of Britain’s biggest motor insurers, with shares up as much as 7% after markets opened.

Revenues at the firm rose 22% to £2.2bn in the six months to the end of June, thanks to series of big price rises, while pre-tax profits increased 4% to £234m on the back of the group's “diversification strategy”. This saw non-UK motor products delivering 19% customer growth.

But the firm cut its dividend by 15%, warning of a “backdrop of continuing elevated levels of claims inflation.”

It also now expects a small decrease in cost inflation in motor insurance, it's largest unit, for the second half of the year.

The group reported 9.41m customers in the first-half, up from 9.28m at the end of 2022.

"The market increased price quite substantially in the first half of the year, a bit over 20%, and particularly in the second quarter, the price increase actually accelerated,” Admiral chief executive Milena Mondini de Focatiis told the Financial Times. "We are very aware there is lots of pressure on our customers."

Matt Britzman, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "Conditions are likely to remain tough over the rest of the year, but Admiral should be able to continue its string of outperformance versus peers with selective underwriting and strong pricing power."

Marks and Spencer (MKS.L)

Marks and Spencer continued to push higher on Wednesday, surging another 4%, after its unscheduled update the previous day pleased investors.

The company raised its outlook for the year due to better-than-expected trading. M&S now expects profit to grow compared to last year, and for interim results to show a significant improvement against previous expectations.

In the first 19 weeks of the financial year, like-for-like food sales grew 11% and clothing and homeware sales rose by more than 6%.

The holiday range also saw a 46% increase in beachwear and a 22% rise in linen between April and June.

However, M&S did caution that there are still “considerable uncertainties about the economic outlook”.

Charlie Huggins, manager of the Quality Shares Portfolio at Wealth Club, said: “The results are also testament to the group’s progress against its strategy, launched last year. This aims to improve brand perception and designs, reduce discounting, and improve the online offering, while taking a knife to costs and instilling a more entrepreneurial culture.

"Today’s trading update suggests this plan is resonating with consumers with M&S continuing to increase its market share in clothing and home.”

Tesla (TSLA)

Tesla stock is down 2.3% in pre-market trading after cutting prices in China for the second time in three days.

The move has escalated a price war in the country that investors fear is draining profits.

The electric carmaker slashed the price of its Model S sedan by around $9,600 (£7,535) and its Model X SUV by a similar amount as it competes with domestic rivals including BYD.

The cars, dubbed “standard range” models, can travel a shorter distance between charges compared to the original models. The range of the new vehicles has been clipped by up to 74 miles, meaning drivers covering long distances will have to stop to charge more often.

It delivered 19,225 of the S and X in the three months to the end of June, up from 16,162 a year earlier, while 3 and Y deliveries leapt from 238,533 to 446,915.

Chief executive Elon Musk has said he was willing to keep cutting prices to defend market share. He said last month: “I think it does make sense to sacrifice margins in favour of making more vehicles.”

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