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LONDON MARKET OPEN: AB Foods profit soars boosting interim dividend

Tue, 23rd Apr 2024 08:54

(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London continued to build on Monday's gains early on Tuesday, thanks to sentiment boosted by the prospect of interest rate cuts.

In early corporate news, Primark-owner AB Foods took the spotlight, thanks to higher interim profit and a dividend to match it.

The FTSE 100 index opened up 33.06 points, 0.4%, at 8,056.93. The FTSE 250 was up 54.48 points, 0.3%, at 19,653.87, and the AIM All-Share was up 2.14 points, 0.3%, at 751.32.

The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.3% at 804.24, the Cboe UK 250 was up 0.2% at 17,036.88, and the Cboe Small Companies was up 0.1% at 15,055.24.

In European equities on Tuesday, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.3%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.7%.

Stocks in London got a boost on Monday, after a member of the Bank of England's interest rate-setting committee said he thinks UK inflation could return to the target level and stay there for longer than the central bank's own predictions.

Dave Ramsden said the UK is no longer an "outlier" but a "laggard" when it comes to its inflation performance, meaning it is slowly but surely catching up with international peers including the US and the eurozone.

The FTSE 100 closed up at a new closing high on Monday and achieved an intraday high of 8,044.98, a touch off its best-ever level.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2354 early on Tuesday in London, higher compared to USD1.2336 at the equities close on Monday. The euro stood at USD1.0667, higher against USD1.0642. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY154.81, up compared to JPY154.78.

In early economic news, investors were digesting the latest Kantar data.

Kantar said annual UK grocery price inflation ebbed to 3.2% in the four weeks to April 14, its lowest level since February 2022, and down from 4.5% in March.

For the same four-week period, the market research firm said overall take-home grocery sales rose 3.3%. For the 12 weeks to April 14, total grocery sales rose 4.3% to GBP33.92 billion from GBP32.51 billion a year prior.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, explains: "Higher prices have played a role in reaching that record spend figure, but the number of chocolate eggs sold in the seven days to Easter was also 3% higher this spring than last, with 37% of consumers buying one in that week. Hot cross buns were even more popular, enjoyed by 45% of Britons."

Ocado Retail was the fastest growing retailer this month. The online-only grocer is a joint venture between Ocado Group and Marks & Spencer Group.

Year-on-year sales at Britain's two largest grocers, Tesco and Sainsbury's, climbed by 6.8% and 5.9% respectively in the 12-week period to GBP9.28 billion and GBP5.18 billion. Further, their shares of the market nudged up by 0.4 percentage points each to 27.4% and 15.3% respectively.

Shares in Ocado, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury were up 4.7%, 1.7%, 1.3%, and 1.1%, respectively.

Elsewhere in the FTSE 100, Primark owner AB Foods shot up 7.3% to the top of the index.

AB Foods reported that pretax profit jumped 37% to GBP881 million in the 24 weeks ended March 2, from GBP644 million a year earlier.

Revenue rose to GBP9.73 billion from GBP9.56 billion.

On the back of higher profit, the company upped its interim dividend by 46% to 20.7p from 14.2p.

Looking ahead, AB Foods said it is on track to deliver growth in both profitability and cash generation ahead of expectations.

JD Sports rose 1.8%, after the sports retailer announced plans to buy Hibett for an enterprise value of USD1.11 billion.

Hibbett is listed on the Nasdaq in the US, and is a Birmingham, Alabama sports fashion-inspired retailer. It is located in 36 states across the US, JD noted.

"The transaction represents an important strategic milestone for the group, accelerating its growth plans in North America and aligning with the group's stated strategy of enhancing its presence in the world's biggest and most attractive sportswear market," it said.

In the FTSE 250 index, Ferrexpo jumped 8.7%.

The Baar, Switzerland-based producer of iron ore pellets said commercial production rose to 2.0 million tonnes of iron ore pellets and concentrate in the first quarter of 2024. This was up from 677,168 tonnes in the fourth quarter.

"This is our best quarterly performance since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and is a tribute to the significant contribution of our workforce that has worked tirelessly since February 2022 to maintain operations in exceptionally challenging conditions," said Executive Chair Lucio Genovese.

In Asia on Tuesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo was up 0.3%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.7%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was up 1.8%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed up 0.5%.

In the US on Monday, Wall Street ended higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.7%, the S&P 500 up 0.9% and the Nasdaq Composite up 1.1%.

Brent oil was quoted at USD87.26 a barrel early in London on Tuesday, up from USD86.92 late Monday. Gold was quoted down at USD2,309.50 an ounce against USD2,337.50.

Still to come on Tuesday's economic calendar, there is PMI data from the eurozone and the UK out at 0900 BST and 0930, respectively.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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