LONDON MARKET PRE-OPEN: Pub Chain Ei Agrees To GBP1.3 Billion Takeover

Thu, 18th Jul 2019 07:44

(Alliance News) - Stocks in London are set for a lower open on Thursday as US-China trade fears linger, while in early UK corporate news both easyJet and Moneysupermarket.com released solid updates.Elsewhere, pub operator Ei Group has agreed to a takeover worth over GBP1 billion. IG futures indicate the FTSE 100 index is to open 27.3 points lower at 7,508.16. The blue-chip index finished 41.74 points lower, or 0.6%, at 7,535.46 on Wednesday.Fears President Donald Trump's trade wars will harm the US economy are pervasive, but for now, America keeps chugging along with steady job creation and tame inflation, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. Worries about the trade outlook are likely to weigh on the Fed's thinking later this month, when it is overwhelmingly expected to cut interest rates for the first time in a decade."Economic activity continued to expand at a modest pace overall from mid-May through early July," the Fed said in its regular survey of business conditions across the country.In early UK corporate news, Ei Group - formerly known as Enterprise Inns - has agreed a GBP1.27 billion takeover by Stonegate Pub Co, it said, with Stonegate offering 285p a share in cash. This is a 39% premium to Ei's closing price of 205.8p on Wednesday. In the FTSE 100, SSE has held annual guidance as well its dividend plans despite some "short-term" challenges in the first quarter of its financial year ending March 2020.The "key" financial months are still to come, the utility said, but it has reaffirmed adjusted operating guidance despite lower than expected renewable energy output in the quarter ended June. Customer numbers in the Energy Services business have fallen, SSE said, coming in at 5.71 million accounts at the end of June from 5.87 million at the end of March.Defence firm BAE Systems will book a 5 pence boost to earnings per share for 2019, it said, due to an overseas tax one-off credit combined with exposure to the EU's decision on UK government state aid. Miner Anglo American reported a 1% year-on-year rise in second-quarter copper production to 159,000 tonnes, though diamond output is down 14% to 7.7 million carats.Iron ore production fell 9% year-on-year to 10.5 million tonnes from Kumba Iron Ore, while metallurgical coal was up 11% to 5.8 million tonnes and thermal coal fell 8% to 6.6 million tonnes.Overall, Anglo American said, production rose 2% for the quarter year-on-year, as Minas Rio iron ore in Brazil restarted and metallurgical coal did well. Anglo American has cut guidance for diamond and Kumba Iron Ore production, but has increased it for Minas Rio, offsetting the two reductions. In the FTSE 250, budget airline easyJet reported an 11% increase in third-quarter revenue to GBP1.76 billion, with passenger revenue up 11% and ancillary revenue rising 14%. Passenger numbers were up 8% to 26.4 million in a "robust" quarter ended June, the airline continued, with total revenue per seat climbing 0.7%. Cost performance was "strong" and in line with expectations, easyJet added. For its year ending September, easyJet has held capacity, revenue per seat, and cost per seat guidance, but has guided for a GBP30 million to GBP50 million hit to the fuel bill. Foreign exchange will also have a GBP5 million impact on headline pretax profit. Overall, pretax profit on a headline basis should be within market expectations of GBP400 million to GBP440 million. Moneysupermarket.com reported a 15% rise in interim revenue, for the six months to June, to GBP199.4 million, with pretax profit rising 18% to GBP50.2 million. The comparison site operator has increased its interim dividend by 5% to 3.10 pence per share. Moneysupermarket.com said it was an "encouraging" performance, and it is confident on meeting market expectations for 2019. Royal Mail said performance in its first quarter ended June met expectations, with the outlook for its year ending March unchanged. The firm is holding its annual general meeting in Exeter on Thursday. Food packaging business Hilton Food Group said performance in the 28 weeks to July 14 met expectations, with growth coming through additional volume. Good progress was made in Western Europe, while Central Europe met expectations. There was "strong" growth in Australia, Hilton continued, and the company remains in a strong position financially. Bookmaker GVC Holdings has sold its 50% stake in a Spanish joint venture, Sportium Apuestas Deportivas, for EUR70 million to its joint venture partner Cirsa. FTSE 250 gold miner Centamin reported a 1% rise in second-quarter production on the first quarter, reaching 117,913 ounces, and this figure was 27% higher on the year before. First half production rose 8% year-on-year to 234,096.Centamin has held all annual guidance for production and costs, and said the balance sheet remains strong with no debt.Peer Hochschild Mining reported second-quarter output of 84,180 ounces of gold, which is 8.0% higher than the first quarter and 4.4% up year-on-year.For the first half, Hochschild's gold production rose 1.1% year-on-year to 161,160 ounces, and, like Centamin, it has reiterated 2019 production and cost guidance. On AIM, online fashion retailer ASOS reported a 12% rise in revenue for the four months to June, reaching GBP919.8 million, with UK retail sales climbing 16%, EU by 5%, US by 12%, and Rest of the World by 14%. Total orders increased 14% year-on-year to 24.8 million, but ASOS said performance has been held back by operational issues in warehouses in the EU and US. As a result, it has increased transition costs to GBP47 million for its current financial year, having previously seen GBP35 million. Pretax profit will come in at between GBP30 million and GBP35 million. The retail gross margin is likely to fall 250 basis points year-on-year.In the US on Wednesday Wall Street ended lower, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 0.4%, the S&P 500 down 0.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite 0.5% lower.On Thursday in the US comes second-quarter earnings from Morgan Stanley. The Japanese Nikkei 225 index closed 2.0% down. In China, the Shanghai Composite is down 0.6%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is down 0.6%.Peers have thrown down the gauntlet to Boris Johnson over a no-deal Brexit by heavily defeating the government in the Lords.A bid to block Parliament being suspended to force through leaving the EU without a deal was backed by 272 votes to 169, majority 103.Johnson, the Conservative Party leadership frontrunner, has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing Parliament to ensure Britain leaves the EU on October 31.Johnson will immediately launch a major drive to prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit if he becomes prime minister.The front-runner for the Tory leadership again refused to rule out suspending Parliament in order to force through EU withdrawal without an agreement at the final Tory leadership hustings.Johnson insisted if he becomes PM next week he would ensure the country was ready for the impact of no-deal.The pound was quoted at USD1.2439 early Thursday, broadly flat from USD1.2435 at the close in London on Wednesday, having hit its lowest level in two years earlier in the session. A quit economic calendar has UK retail sales at 0930 BST.

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