(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London opened mixed on Friday, with the FTSE 100 managing to post mild gains after well-received earnings from Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Hargreaves Lansdown.
Investors were wary of US-China tensions after President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring US residents from doing any business with the Chinese parent companies of social media platforms TikTok and WeChat, citing national security concerns.
The UK flagship index was up 5.32 points, or 0.1%, at 6,032.26. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was down 18.53 points, or 0.1%, at 17,460.85. The AIM All-Share index was flat at 916.53.
The Cboe UK 100 index was down 0.2% at 599.69. The Cboe 250 was down 0.3% at 14,828.68, and the Cboe Small Companies was flat at 9,212.65.
In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 in Paris was down 0.4%, while the DAX 30 in Frankfurt was off 0.1%.
"European markets surprisingly kept their cool on Friday morning, despite Donald Trump effectively banning TikTok and WeChat in the US. Giving companies 45 days to end all transactions with ByteDance and Tencent - the respective owners of the China-based apps - the president lobbed another tech grenade in his cold war with Beijing, almost guaranteeing some kind of retaliation from the rival superpower. But with the form and severity of that retaliation currently unknown, the markets managed to avoid a full-blown panic attack," commented Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
On the London Stock Exchange, Hikma Pharmaceuticals was the best blue-chip performer, up 7.0% after the generic drugmaker raised the annual sales outlook for its two main units and reported higher first-half profit.
For the half-year ended June 30, attributable profit came in at USD212 million, up 16% from USD185 million last year and revenue was USD1.13 billion, up 8% from USD1.05 billion.
Hikma said it expects 2020 revenue from the injectables business to be between USD950 million and USD980 million, from the previous forecast of growth in the low to mid-single digits.
In addition, Hikma raised the revenue outlook for its generics division to a range of USD720 million to USD760 million, from USD700 million to USD750 million previously.
Hikma raised its interim dividend 14% to 16.0 cents from 14.0 cents.
Hargreaves Lansdown was up 6.0% after the stockbroker said it delivered a strong annual performance, despite an external environment of persistent challenges.
The Bristol, England-based company, which offers an investment platform for retail investors, said assets under administration for the year to June 30 increased 5% year-on-year to GBP104.0 billion from GBP99.3 billion a year ago. Net new business inflows also rose 5% year-on-year to GBP7.7 billion from GBP7.3 billion.
Annual pretax profit jumped 24% to GBP378.3 million from GBP305.8 million profit a year ago. This included a gain on disposal of GBP38.8 million relating to FundsLibrary Ltd. Stripping out the exceptional disposal gain, pretax profit rose 11% year-on-year to GBP339.5 million.
Revenue rose 15% to GBP550.9 million from GBP480.5 million, driven by higher asset levels and record share dealing volumes seen in the second half of the year.
Following the strong performance, Hargreaves Lansdown raised its total dividend 11% to 54.9 pence from 42p.
Rightmove was up 4.0% as the property portal pointed to positive signs in the UK housing market going forward, despite posting a fall in interim profit.
Rightmove reported a drop in first-half profit and scrapped its dividend after the Covid-19 crisis prompted the property portal to offer discounts to its customers.
For the half-year to June 30, pretax profit dropped to GBP61.6 million, down from GBP108.1 million last year, as revenue fell to GBP94.8 million from GBP143.9 million. Average revenue per advertiser was down by 34% to GBP712 per month from GBP1,077 last year.
The company elected against paying an interim dividend, having paid out 2.8p last year.
However, Rightmove said stamp duty holidays offered by the UK government provided the potential for cautious optimism that housing transaction levels would increase from the low point in the second quarter.
"'Following the reopening of the housing market on 13 May housing market activity is at record levels, with evidence of new home hunters coming into the market with changing needs as they reassess their priorities and further incentivised by the temporary stamp duty holiday," Chief Executive Peter Brooks-Johnson said.
At the other end of the large-cap index, Rolls-Royce Holdings was down 2.0% after the Finacial Times reported US-based activist investor ValueAct sold its entire shareholding in the jet engine maker - citing two people familiar with the situation.
According to FT, ValueAct built a 10% stake in Rolls-Royce in 2015 after it issued a string of profit warnings. The UK engineering company is currently evaluating a GBP1.5 billion to GBP2 billion capital raise to help restore its balance sheet.
ValueAct started reducing its stake - which peaked in 2017 at 11% - after the departure of Rolls-Royce's chief operating officer Brad Singer in December.
The Japanese Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.4%. In China, the Shanghai Composite ended down 0.9%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is down 2.0%.
The pound was quoted at USD1.3107 Friday morning, lower from USD1.3137 at the London equities close Thursday. Sterling was easing from five-month highs versus the greenback attained after the Bank of England on Thursday said it was not planning to use negative interest rates in the immediate future.
The euro was priced at USD1.1838, soft from USD1.1845. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY105.57, flat from JPY105.51 in London.
Brent oil was quoted at USD45.02 a barrel Friday morning, lower from USD45.37 at the London equities close Thursday.
Gold was priced at USD2,058.24 an ounce Friday, up from USD2,052.10 late Thursday.
Still to come, there is the closely-watched US jobs report for July at 1330 BST.
By Arvind Bhunjun; firstname.lastname@example.org
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