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Weekly review

By Josh White

Date: Friday 11 Jun 2021

(Sharecast News) - The FTSE 100 ended the week 65.02 points higher, closing at 7,134.06 on Friday.
Equity view

Residential landlord Grainger said it has bought an apartment building in the English city of Newcastle for £57m. The building, housing 283 rental apartments and a ground floor commercial, was bought from Moorfield Real Estate Fund III.

Asset management services provider Sanne Group said it was in talks with Cinven after the buyout firm made a new 875p-a-share offer for the firm. Sanne had previously rejected a £1.35bn proposal last month as too low, The current proposed offer would value Sanne at £1.42bn.

Neil Smith, chief financial officer of Domino's Pizza, is leaving the company to become finance director of pub chain Fuller, Smith & Turner. Domino's said it will now begin the search process for a successor. Smith will work with chief executive Dominic Paul and the board to ensure an orderly transition, Domino's said, and is expected to leave on 26 November following completion of his notice period.

Recruiter Robert Walters said on Friday that pre-tax profit for the year to the end of December 2021 was set to be "materially ahead" of current market expectations. "The positive momentum reported in the group's first quarter trading update has continued through the first two months of the second quarter," the company said in a brief statement.

Halma increased its final dividend by 8% as the company posted record annual profit and said the current year had started well. Adjusted pre tax profit for the year to the end of March rose 4% to £278.3m from a year earlier as revenue fell 2% to £1.32bn. Statutory pretax profit rose 13% to £252.9m including a £21.6m gain on the disposal of Fiberguide Industries.

Online trading platform CMC Markets reported a surge in full-year profits on Thursday, with customer numbers up as it benefited from heightened volatility due to the pandemic. In the year to 31 March, pre-tax profit jumped 127% to £224m, while net operating income rose 63% to £409.8m.

Capita on Thursday said it had won a £58m three-year contract renewal with Tesco Mobile to operate the telecoms firm's customer services. "Capita has already started the transformation process that will enable it to deploy the next generation of digital technology and produce better outcomes for our client and their customers," the company said in a statement.

Go-Ahead said passengers were returning to its buses as lockdown restrictions eased and the company upgraded its financial outlook for the current year. More people are travelling on UK regional buses than at any time in the pandemic as they travel for shopping, leisure and to meet friends and family, Go-Ahead said. Passenger volumes are between 65 and 70% of normal levels on most days compared with 20% in March and some regions have peaks of more than 80%.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce said on Wednesday that Anita Frew will succeed Sir Ian Davis as chair on 1 October. Frew, the first woman ever to chair the company, will join the board with effect from 1 July and Davis will retire at the end of September after nearly nine years as chairman.

Intellectual property business developer IP Group said on Wednesday that for the year to date, its positive progress made by many of its portfolio companies in 2020 has continued. The FTSE 250 company, which was holding its annual general meeting, said it remained "well-financed" and, as at 31 May, had gross cash and deposits of £228.7m, down from £270.3m at the end of the 2020 financial year, and net cash of £169.1m, down from £203m at year-end.

Computer vision technology company Seeing Machines has been appointed by CAE Australia to integrate its eye-tracking technology for an Australian defence industry customer, it announced on Wednesday. The AIM-traded firm said the engagement, valued at AUD 1m (£0.55m) over five years, followed a successful direct engagement between the company and an Australian defence industry innovation programme delivered over the past two years.

Asia-Pacific focussed oil and gas production company Jadestone Energy updated the market on the planned acquisition of a 69% operated interest in the Maari asset in shallow water offshore New Zealand on Wednesday. The AIM-traded firm said it was still working with the seller OMV New Zealand to satisfy the remaining outstanding conditions to complete the acquisition, in particular the approval of the regulator, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZPAM).

British American Tobacco increased its guidance for annual revenue growth as it attracted more non-combustible product customers and reported a solid performance for its tobacco brands. The FTSE 100 group said it expected revenue to rise by more than 5% at constant currency this year - up from an earlier forecast of 3-5%. Adjusted, diluted earnings per share will rise by mid-single digits at constant currency, BAT predicted.

Dechra Pharmaceuticals said on Tuesday that full-year revenue was set to be ahead of consensus expectations, as it continues to benefit from strong market fundamentals and lower costs. In a brief update on trading, the company also said it was benefiting from the completion of the UK pre-Brexit inventory unwind and further easing of lockdown restrictions. As a result, it is increasingly confident that it will continue to perform strongly for the rest of the financial year.

Wagamama owner Restaurant Group said on Tuesday that Chair Debbie Hewitt will step down with effect from 31 December to take on the same role at the English Football Association. The company has kicked off a formal process to recruit a successor, led by senior independent director Graham Clemett, and an announcement will be made in due course.

Intermediate Capital Group increased its fundraising target after exceptional performance by its investment arm caused annual profit to more than quadruple. Pretax profit for the year to the end of March rose to £507.7m from £110.8m a year earlier as the investment company swung to a record £305.4m profit from a £72.3m loss. The fund management company also reported record profit, up 10% to £202.3m.

UK consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser said it was selling its baby formula business in China to the private equity firm Primavera for $2.2bn and would incur a £2.5bn net loss on the deal. The maker of Dettol disinfectant Reckitt said it expected to receive about $1.3bn in cash from the deal which it will use to pay down debts, and will keep an 8% stake in the unit, it said in a statement on Monday. As a result of the sale, the company expects to incur the net loss due to the re-measurement of goodwill and intangible assets.

Intellectual property business developer IP Group said its portfolio company Iksuda Therapeutics had completed a $42m (£29m) financing round to fund human clinical trials of its lead cancer drug. Newcastle-based Iksuda raised the cash from a group of new investors including South Korean drug developer Celltrion. The funds will be used to take lead drug, IKS03, into a phase one clinical trial and also go towards some of Iksuda's other, earlier-stage cancer drugs.

AstraZeneca said on Monday that final results from the head-to-head 'ELEVATE-RR' phase 3 trial of 'Calquence', or acalabrutinib, demonstrated non-inferior progression-free survival (PFS) and statistically significantly fewer events of atrial fibrillation versus ibrutinib in adults with previously-treated chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), the most common type of leukaemia in adults. The FTSE 100 drugmaker also said that separately, updated results at four years of follow-up from the 'ELEVATE-TN' phase 3 trial continued to show a strong progression-free survival benefit for Calquence as combination therapy, or as monotherapy in previously-untreated patients with CLL.

Clipper Logistics upgraded its medium-term expectations on Monday, following a solid year of trading, as it also announced the acquisition of life sciences-focussed Wippet and an extension of its Europe contract with Asos. The London-listed firm said it had continued to perform strongly throughout the year ended 30 April, with full-year EBIT set to be in line with expectations of £31.6m, making for an underlying increase of 53% over the 2020 financial year.

Economic news

The UK economy grew in April at its fastest monthly pace since July 2020 as lockdown restrictions eased, according to figures released on Friday by the Office for National Statistics. The economy expanded by 2.3% following 2.1% growth in March and versus expectations for 2.5% growth.

Abuja may tap StanChart instead of Chinese lenders for the financing needed to modernise two of the country's main railways. Speaking to Bloomberg, Nigerian transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, said talks were under way on the $14.4bn of loans needed to upgrade the narrow-gauge Port Harcourt-Maiduguri track in eastern Nigeria and the standard-gauge coastal line.

The Bank of England's top economist said the central bank may need to look at turning off the monetary policy taps given the 'gangbusters' economy. In an interview with LBC radio, the Bank's chief economist said that it was "hard to find anything whose price isn't going up at the moment" and that it was important that the UK did not become overly dependent on "monetary medicine".

Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, has warned that fiscal stimulus measures and the erosion of central bank independence threaten a return to high inflation. King said there were already signs of prices rising as Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed and economies open up. Some will probably be temporary but there are reasons to worry, he said in a letter to the Financial Times.

UK retail sales strengthened in May, industry data showed on Tuesday, as the economy continued to emerge from lockdown. According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, sales jumped 23.7% on a like-for-like basis in May on the same month two years ago, when they declined 3.0%. Online plays a significant role in like-for-like figures.

UK consumers spent more on clothes, personal grooming and gifts in May as groups of people were allowed to meet again and leisure venues reopened, a survey showed. Total consumer spending rose 7.6% compared with May 2019, before the pandemic took hold, Barclaycard said. Spending on clothes rose 8.5% and consumers laid out 17.8% extra at pharmacy, health and beauty stores.

Major parts of the internet were out of action for a short period on Tuesday morning, with the UK government's web presence among the global websites offline. Media outlets including the Guardian and the Financial Times returned an 'Error 503' message for a time between 1100 and 1200 BST, which means a server is temporarily unable to handle traffic, or is otherwise unavailable.

The overwhelming majority of Britons admitted to hospital after infection with the so-called Delta strain of Covid-19 were unvaccinated. According to The Times, out of the 12,383 cases of infection with that variant, 464 had gone to a hospital Accident and Emergency unit and only 126 admitted.

UK house prices reached another record high in May, according to Halifax, with the property market remaining "buoyant" headed into the summer. Halifax's house price index for may revealed on Monday that annual house price inflation was now at its strongest level in nearly seven years, with the average UK property price coming in at £261,743 last month - up 1.3% on April, 2.4% on the prior quarter and 9.5% year-on-year to a new record high.

The UK is under increasing pressure from the European Union to end free carbon permits for airlines in order to meet its targets for fighting against climate change. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to provide details on how Britain intended to meet its climate targets before the Cop26 conference later in 2021.

International events

US consumer sentiment improved more than expected in June, according to a preliminary reading from the University of Michigan. The Michigan sentiment index rose to 86.4 from 82.9 in May and 78.1 in June 2020. The current economic conditions index printed at 90.6 in June compared to 89.4 the month before and 87.1 in the same month a year ago.

The European Central Bank has left its key interest rates unchanged, in line with analyst expectations. Following the latest monetary policy meeting of the bank's Governing Council, the main refinancing rate - its headline interest rate - has been kept at 0.0%, while the deposit facility rate was unchanged at -0.5%.

Inflation in the US bounded ahead in May with big gains evident across nearly all categories of products and services. According to the US Department of Labor, headline consumer prices jumped at a month-on-month pace of 0.6%, pushing the annual rate of increase from 4.2% for April to 5.0%.

The number of Americans lining up for state unemployment benefits declined for a sixth consecutive week, with initial claims decreasing by 9,000 to 376,000 in the week ended 5 June, according to the Labor Department. Significantly, continuing claims for ongoing state unemployment dropped 258,000 in the week ended 29 May to 3.5m - the largest decline since mid-March.

The world's watchdog for central banks began a public consultation on Thursday on preliminar proposals for how lenders' exposure to cryptocurrencies should be regulated. "While banks' exposures to crypto assets are currently limited, the continued growth and innovation in crypto assets and related services, coupled with the heightened interest of some banks, could increase global financial stability concerns and risks to the banking system in the absence of a specified prudential treatment," the Bank of International Settlements said in a statement.

The US State Department eased its travel warnings for dozens of countries overnight. Warnings for almost 60 countries, including France and Germany, were lowered from so-called 'level four' which says "do not travel" to level three which recommends US citizens "reconsider travel".

China's factory gate prices have risen at their fastest pace in nearly 13 years, official data showed on Wednesday, fuelled by the global rally in commodity prices. According to China's National Bureau of Statistics, the producer price index rose by 9.0% in May, from 6.8% in April. The increase, the fastest annual pace since September 2008, was ahead of forecasts, with most analysts looking for 8.5%.

German industrial production fell more than expected in April as signs emerged that supply constraints were holding back output. Factory, energy and construction production dropped 1% from a month earlier, below analysts' average forecast of a 0.4% dip. Production rose 26.4% from a year earlier, also below the consensus which was for 29.5% growth.

Nvidia Corp submitted an application to Chinese competition regulators to review its proposed $40bn takeover of UK chip designer Arm, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday. According to people familiar with the matter and Chinese antitrust lawyers, the application was made in recent weeks and sets in motion a period of scrutiny that could take up to 18 months.

The biggest Covid-19 danger to the Tokyo Olympics are the locals, said experts studying the event on Tuesday. According to the Financial Times, despite the fact that thousands of athletes and officials will be travelling from abroad, the biggest risk is the greater mobility and socialising among Tokyo locals during the event.

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