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21 Nov 2019 | 08:48

FTSE 100 opens lower as Royal Mail shares plummet

The FTSE 100 index started the day down by 0.7% in early trading, on the day the opposition Labour Party revealed its election manifesto.

Royal Mail shares plummeted 12.7% this morning despite posting its strongest UK revenue in five years of £5.2bn, up by 5.1%. Profit before tax fell amid a challenging operational environment.

In its half-year report for the 26 weeks to 29 September 2019, group CEO Rico Back warned of revenue and cost headwinds for the group's UK business in 2020-21 as it invests to transform its business model.

Profit margin was 3.2%, down from 3.9% for the same period in 2018. Earnings per share fell to 11.1p, from 13.6p in the same period a year earlier.

Chemicals company Johnson Matthey was down 4.6% after it announced that profit fell in the first half of the year pressured by one-off costs associated with additional freight costs and manufacturing inefficiencies in its clean air division.

For the six months ended 30th September 2019, pre-tax profit fell 8% to £225m on-year and revenue rose 37% to £6.8bn.

Severn Trent shares also declined by 1.7% after it revealed underlying profit declined by 4.3% year on year after a programme of infrastructure investment.

Turnover hit £910m in the six months to the end of September, up by £28.5m, while underlying profit before interest and tax was £286.3m, down £12.8m.

The group's underlying basic earnings per share was 68.8p, down 9.7%, which it said reflected lower profits and the loss incurred from a joint venture with United Utilities, Water Plus.

Shares in Euromoney Institutional Investor leapt by 12% on the publication of its annual results. The group said the results were 'slightly' above its expectations as good momentum in its pricing, data and market intelligence products was offset by weakness in asset management.

For the year ended 30 September, adjusted pre-tax operating profit rose 5% to £104.6m and revenue increased by 3% to £401.7m. That compared with previous guidance for pre-tax adjusted profit and revenue of £104m and £401m respectively.

Housebuilder Countryside Properties reported a rise in pre-tax profit as revenue increased by more than a fifth thanks to a jump in completions. However, its share price is down 1.1% in early trading today. For the year ended 30 September 2019, pre-tax profit rose to £203.6m from £180.7m on-year and revenue 21% to £1.2bn.

Completions rose 33% to 5,733 homes, but the average selling price fell 9% to £369,000 as the company shifted its geographical focus towards regions outside of London.

Bookmaker William Hill's shares fell 1.3% despite reporting strong US revenue growth of 60% with new operations in two states so far this year.

The betting company said in a trading update for the year to 29 October 2019 that it was trading in line with full year expectations with net revenue up 1% compared to the same period in 2018. Online UK net revenue was up 4%, consistent with the market growth rate.

Shares in wealth management group Close Brothers fell by 1.9% after it said lower activity levels across its markets in the first quarter of the year had kept a lid on growth. Its banking division grew the loan book by 0.9% in the quarter to £7.7bn, driven by commercial, but retail and property loan growth remained broadly flat.

Infrastructure company Hill & Smith's stock fell 2.3% as it reported underlying profit and revenue in the four months through July were ahead of last year, but challenges continued in its Scandinavian business.

For the period 1 July 2019 to 31 October 2019, revenue increased by 8% to £243.6m on-year and underlying group operating profit was ahead of the same period last year, thanks to 'strong' performance in its core UK And US markets.

Centrica shares rose 4.6% after the energy group posted solid third-quarter performance with higher margins and growth in its customer base.

It also reported strong trading and optimisation performance in Europe, and acceleration of cost efficiency delivery, offsetting the impact of outages at two nuclear power stations.

Rotork announced that it expected slightly weaker sales in 2019 compared to 2018 as customers have delayed orders until the new year, pushing its shares down 7.2%. In a trading update, the company said new orders improved compared to the third quarter of 2018 but that large project activity remained subdued.

NewRiver REIT's shares declined slightly by 0.6% after it announced that it grew its cashflow by 3.1% in the period since 1 April 2019, according to its half year results. Funds from operations (FFO) hit £26.4m, up from £25.6m. Underlying FFO per share was 8.6p, up from 8.4p.

Healthcare investment company Syncona's shares dropped 1.8% after it reported a 7.2% loss for the six months to the end of September as its portfolio was weighted down by a fall in the share price of Autolus, one of its holdings. Syncona's net assets at 30 September 2019 totalled £1,336.8m, down from £1,455.1m at the end of March. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com
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