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Today’s market overview

Equities are off a little in early trading and The Trader Dominic Picarda expects this erratic performance to continue for a little while yet.

IC TIP UPDATES:

Recent buy recommendation. MicroFocus International (MCRO) has announced the details of its return of cash to shareholders, this will take the form of a 60p a share payment under a ‘D’ share scheme. The likely return of further cash was a core reason for our recent recommendation and we retain this advice.

Ladbrokes (LAD) has agreed to pay A$22m (£13m) for Australian online sports betting business owner Gaming Investments, which owns Bookmaker.com.au among other businesses. Ladbrokes has also launched its own Ladbrokes.com.au service today. We keep our buy rating.

Sell recommendation A&J Mucklow (MKLW) turned in a ‘solid’ performance in the year to June with underlying pre-tax profits coming in marginally up at £13.5m. Our recommendation is under review.

Galiford Try (GFRD) has secured construction contracts in the Midlands worth £48m in aggregate to build a dental hospital in Birmingham and an extension and refurbishment to a science library at the University of Nottingham. Buy.

KEY STORIES:

Budget carrier Ryanair (RYA) has lost altitude this morning after warning that soft trading in recent weeks there will be no upgrade to forecasts and indeed profits could come in at the lower end of the indicated €570m-€600m range or even below that range if weakness persists. Ryanair’s shares slumped more than 13 per cent on the news.

Financial services specialist Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) continues to trade strongly. Full year results today showed a 22 per cent rise in revenues and a 28 per cent leap in pre-tax profits to £195.2m. The business attracted 76,000 new customers over the year and boosted assets under administration by 38 per cent to £36.4bn.

Home Retail (HOME) has announced plans for its chief executive Terry Duddy to step down on 2 July 2014, the search for a replacement is under way.

Plant hire specialist Ashtead (AHT) enjoyed a strong first quarter to the end of July in which it posted record pre-tax profits of £99.5m, a 59 per cent improvement on last year. The company has also ploughed £279m into capital expenditure in the first three months as it looks to maintain momentum, with trading in August reported to have remained strong.

British Land (BLND) has paid £101m for a 50 per cent stake in the recently completed Southgate retail of office scheme in Bath.

OTHER COMPANY NEWS:

Prezzo (PRZ) enjoyed a bumper six months to June with revenues rising 17 per cent and adjusted pre-tax profits up 12 per cent to £8.5m. The company has 222 restaurants trading having opened seven restaurants in the first half and a further six since June.

Specialist recruiter Staffline (STAF) grew its revenues by 14 per cent in the six months to June, which helped underlying profits rise by 32 per cent to £4.9m.

Sound Oil (SOU) announces a successful well test of its Nervesa well in Northern Italy, where it has also increased estimated recoverable resources from 21 billion cubic feet (bcf) to 24bcf.

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