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Trending tickers: GSK | THG | Beazley | Disney

A look at the stocks making headlines this Friday

GSK  A view shows GlaxoSmithKline headquarters in London, Britain, January 17, 2022.REUTERS/Hannah McKay
GSK cashes in £800m of shares in healthcare spin-off Haleon. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters (Hannah Mckay / reuters)

GSK (GSK.L)

Pharmaceutical giant GSK has sold more than £800m of shares in its spin-off healthcare group Haleon (HLN.L).

The FTSE 100-listed group said it has offloaded 240m shares – around a 2.6% stake – a week after Pfizer (PFE) announced it planned to sell its 32% stake in the business.

GSK sold at 335p per share, meaning the stake went for a discount of about 2.3% from the closing price of 342.85p on Thursday.

The discounted sale raised around £804m, GSK said.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “Shares in GSK have been in the doldrums since the market started to fret about legal action concerning heartburn treatment Zantac and accusations that it causes cancer. Investors have feared it could be forced to pay out billions in compensation.

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“Slowly, GSK seems to be winning the battle after a Canadian court dismissed a proposed class action, following a similar move in the US late last year.

“While the legal fight is not over, the latest news gives investors a new reason to reappraise GSK, along with news that it has successfully sold a chunk of its shares in Haleon at a near-market price. The business was created from assets owned by GSK and Pfizer, and the two drug companies remained shareholders when the demerger happened.

He added: “They both said they would sell down their positions in time, but the ease at which GSK has placed 240 million shares in Haleon would suggest it won’t have a problem selling the remaining 10.3% stake in the business.

“Essentially that is also good news for Haleon and the perceived risk to its share price from the significant overhang – there is nothing worse than two major shareholders openly saying they don’t want to keep their shares for long.”

THG (THG.L)

THG has ended talks with Apollo about a possible takeover, saying the private equity firm’s proposal undervalued the ecommerce group whose shares have plunged more than 80% since it listed in 2020.

The company, which owns websites Lookfantastic and Myprotein, said on Friday that following a short period of talks there was “no longer any merit in continuing to engage with Apollo”.

It said it had rejected Apollo's approach for the same reason it rebuffed others — "inadequate valuations and the nature of those offer structures".

The founder and chief executive of THG has outlined why a takeover approach from private equity group Apollo was not in the "best interests" of the company, even though it is "unpleasant" being listed in London.

On LinkedIn, Matthew Moulding said Apollo were told their bid valuation and structure was "unacceptable", adding the New York firm had "set out how they could raise their bid further, ahead of a deadline set by the takeover panel".

He added: “ Yes, it's unpleasant being listed in London. But I’ve spent 20 years building THG, from an idea while sat on my sofa, into a global group with sales of £2.2bn.

We've just completed a vast expansion of our tech and global infrastructure. We're just getting going.”

Last month, the group revealed its full year operating losses had more than doubled to £495.6m, dragged down by a £275.4m non-cash impairment and £69.3m of non-recurring costs, such as stock provision, international delivery rerouting and administrative costs.

AJ Bell’s Mould said: “The misery around nutrition and cosmetics e-commerce play THG goes on.

“Down more than 90% on the price at which it joined the stock market, it slumped further this morning as it called off talks with private equity firm Apollo. Investors hoping a takeover would put both them and the company’s torrid existence as a public entity out of their misery will be disappointed.”

Beazley (BEZ.L)

Beazley shares jumped by beyond 4.52%, after the insurer said it had seen “good headline growth” in line with expectations in the first quarter.

The Lloyd's of London firm's gross written premiums expanded by 12% to $1.37bn in the first three months of the year.

This was supported by premiums in the firm's property risks division jumping 56% to $347m, while they surged by 24% in its cyber risks segment thanks to strong growth across Europe.

“At a time of sticky inflation, investors will always be on the look-out for companies that have the sort of pricing power that helps them to defend, or even boost, profits, and non-life insurer Beazley’s first-quarter update unveils an average increase in premium rates on renewals of some 10%,” said Mould.

“Improved investment returns, helped by higher yields on government bonds and no change in catastrophe claims expectations mean that the FTSE 100 firm continues to expect a healthy increase in profits this year.

Chief executive Adrian Cox noted that "the first quarter saw us deliver good headline growth in line with our expectations, underpinned by growth in property, where we are taking advantage of the excellent and continuing market conditions".

Disney (DIS)

Shares of Disney sank more than 8% after reporting earnings that came in slightly weaker than analysts had hoped on Wednesday night. The media and entertainment conglomerate's price increases for Disney+ helped offset a lower-than-expected subscriber number.

Disney's global portfolio includes theme parks, resorts, movies, streaming and broadcast channels including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, and ABC.

Disney+ lost some four million paid subscribers this quarter, dropping to 157.8 million. ESPN+ increased slightly to 25.3 million subscribers and Hulu remained steady at 48.2 million subscribers.

Streaming losses narrowed to $659m in the second quarter— above consensus estimates of $850m.

Theme parks, particularly international parks, continued to be a strong outperformer with operating income hitting $2.17bn in the quarter.

Watch: Stocks moving in after hours: News Corp., Getty Images

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