LONDON (Alliance News) - The following stocks are the leading risers and fallers within the main London indices midday Thursday.
FTSE 100 WINNERS
Standard Life, up 8.1%. The savings and investment business gapped higher at the market open after unexpectedly announcing late Wednesday that it has agreed to sell its Canadian business for GBP2.2 billion in a deal that leaves the company expecting to return GBP1.75 billion to shareholders, while the remaining GBP450.0 million will be retained for general corporate purposes. The sale is expected to generate a one-off gain of GBP1.2 billion for Standard Life. Analysts have been impressed by the achieved sale price for the Canadian business, which is based on an guidance for GBP155 million of pretax operating profit and represents an earnings multiple of 19.5x.
Admiral Group, up 2.5%. The motor insurer received an upgrade to Overweight from Neutral from analysts at HSBC, although its price target was cut slightly to 1,625p from 1,700p. Morgan Stanley cut its own price target for Admiral to 1,264p from 1,351p, retaining its Underweight rating.
Imperial Tobacco, up 1.9%. The group received a boost after Exane BNP raised its rating on the stock to Outperform from Underperform, while Jefferies also turned more positive on the stock, increasing its 2016 earnings forecasts by 10%. Jefferies increased forecasts come on the back of the promise of benefits to come from its US acquisitions from Reynolds American.
easyJet, up 1.0%. The low-cost airline is outperforming after reporting higher traffic figures for August compared with a year earlier. easyJet said it had carried 6.6 million passengers in August, up 8.4% on the year, pushing up its load factor - a measure of how full its planes are - by 1.4 percentage points to 94.2% for the month. Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus is also higher, up 0.8%, its traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres, rose 13% in August, buoyed by a 28% increase in long-haul traffic, and a 2.8% increase in short-haul traffic.
FTSE 100 LOSERS
Hargreaves Lansdown, down 2.4%. The retail stockbroker is the worst blue-chip performer for the second consecutive day. The stock heavily underperformed on Wednesday after it reported lower full-year pretax profit despite a rise in full-year revenue. The company's margins have been coming under increasing pressure due to increased industry regulation, as well as the entrance of competitors to the market that Hargreaves Lansdown has enjoyed leadership in for some time. Citigroup and Barclays became the latest names to make cuts to their price target for the stock Thursday.
Ashtead Group, down 2.2%. The equipment rental company was the top gainer on Wednesday, closing up 3.6% after saying that it expects its full-year results to be above previous expectations. In the absence of any other news, the stock seems to be experiencing some profit taking from those gains.
Tesco, down 1.5%. The supermarket giant has been receiving a steady string of brokerage downgrades after releasing a disastrous update last week that included a 75% cut to its first-half dividend payment. Nomura is that latest name to take a knife to its forecasts, dropping Tesco's price target Thursday to 220p from 270p. The stock is currently trading at 228.93p.
FTSE 250 WINNERS
Supergroup, up 9.2%. The owner of the Superdry clothing brand saw its shares jump after saying that it remains on track to deliver profitable growth in the full year as it posted a rise in group revenue in the first quarter of its fiscal year to GBP87 million, up 16% from the GBP75.1 million posted a year earlier. The group saw positive performances from its wholesale and retail arms and a gradual improvement in like-for-like retail sales against strong comparatives.
Go-Ahead Group, up 3.7%. The bus and rail operator reported a rise in pretax profit to GBP91.2 million for the year ended June 28, up from GBP63.1 million a year earlier, as revenue rose to GBP2.70 billion, from GBP2.57 billion, and its operating profit margin increased. The group said it had carried record passenger numbers on both its rail and bus operations during the year. Moreover, in reflection of the group's confidence going forward, it raised its final dividend for the year to 59.0 pence, from 55.5 pence, bringing the total for the year to 84.5 pence, compared with 81.0 pence.
Betfair Group, up 3.2%. The online betting company said revenue in the three months to July 31 was up 30% to GBP117.4 million from the GBP90.4 million reported last year, driven by the football World Cup, favourable sporting results, an improved performance in its Gaming division and continued growth in Betfair US.
Serco, up 1.8%. The outsourcing company said it has been selected as the preferred bidder to continue providing onshore immigration services to the Australian government, a contract that has proved problematic in the past because it provided less work than initially expected. Commercial negotiations and the procurement process for the contract are ongoing, Serco said, and are expected to conclude in the coming few months.
Restaurant Group, up 1.0%. The restaurant group delivered an upbeat set of first-half results on Friday last week, posting rises in pretax profit in the 26 weeks to 29 June to GBP33.7 million, up 12% from GBP30.0 million a year earlier. That came on the back of a 10% rise in revenue in the period to GBP308 million, against GBP280 million last year, as like-for-like sales rose 2.5% and operating profit margins rose by 20 basis points.
FTSE 250 LOSERS
Alent, down 1.6%. The speciality chemicals company has seen its shares drop after it said Steve Corbett will step down as chief executive, with Rick Ertmann becoming interim chief executive. Ertmann, currently president of the Assembly Materials Division at Alent, will take on the position in an interim capacity while the company launches the process of identifying a permanent replacement.
AIM ALL-SHARE WINNERS
Solo Oil, up 18%. The oil and gas producer saw its shares rise after reporting a 70% increase in gas-condensate reserves from its Ntorya well in Tanzania.
Trakm8 Holdings, up 7.4%. The telematics and data supplier said trading for the new financial year has started well, with the value of new orders up year-on-year, and said it is confident it will meet expectations for the full year. The group said the strong organic growth reported last year has continued, saying the value of new orders booked in the first four months is up 33% year-on-year on a like-for-like basis.
Redde, up 7.2%. The accident management and legal services group, formally known as Helphire Group, increased its full-year dividend to 6.85 pence from 1.65p, saying this reflects its strong cash flow. In addition, the company said its new financial year has started well, with performance in the first two months in line with its expectations. Due to a number of exceptional items, pretax profit fell GBP10.5 million in the year ended June 30, compared with a GBP32.4 million pretax profit in the corresponding period last year. Trading profit, which is a measure of operating profit from continuing operations less income from associates, rose to GBP10.3 million from GBP3.0 million.
President Energy, up 6.6%. The exploration company said it has started drilling ahead of schedule at its Lapacho well and has completed the preliminary evaluation of samples from its Jacaranda well, both in Paraguay. Indications at the Lapacho well, the second of three wells, show estimates of 1 trillion cubic feet of gas and 30 million barrels of condensate of unrisked resources, it said.
FTSE ALL-SHARE LOSERS
Snacktime, down 26%. The vending machine operator has lost a quarter of its value after it issued a profit warning for its last financial year, blaming a change in the estimated stock and cash in its machines and a more prudent approach to doubtful debt provision in its Snack in the Box brand, and also said that trading so far this year had been behind the prior year. In April, the company had predicted that earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation would be about GBP1.3 million in the financial year to end-March, 2014. In a trading update Thursday, it said it now expects the figure to be about GBP1.1 million. The company also said it had called off the planned sale of its Drinkmaster business after potential buyer interest waned when the unit lost some of the business it had with its largest customer, William Hill PLC.