The FTSE 100 saw strong gains at the start of last week, buoyed by a weaker Pound as the currency took a break from its recent rally. Against the Dollar, the Pound fell from $1.325 to a low of $1.31 on Tuesday, before launching a small recovery as the week continued, pushing equity prices higher.
In Brexit news, top EU officials urged the UK to table fresh proposals to break the apparent impasse in negotiations, with Chancellor Phillip Hammond again warning Brexiteers to vote for Prime Minister May’s deal or face a delay to Brexit. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Hammond stated “if the PM’s deal does not get approved on Tuesday then it is likely that the House of Commons will vote to extend the Article 50 procedure.”
Ending as one of the best performers last week was London Stock Exchange (LSE) Group after another impressive set of results from the financial information company. Revenue for the year ended December 2018 jumped 8 per cent to £1.9bn, with pre-tax profit also rising an impressive 26.6 per cent to £685m. LSE cited strong growth in its core Information Services, LCH and Capital Markets divisions, with its FTSE Russell division, operator of the FTSE 100 index, producing 15 per cent revenue growth or 8 per cent organically. The firm also pleased investors with a proposed final dividend of 43.2p a share, taking its full-year pay-out to 60.4p a share, up 17 per cent. The firm did, however, state that it no longer expects to achieve the targeted 4 per cent compound annual growth rate increase in operating expenses for 2017-2019 due to ongoing investment in support growth and efficiency. The company also announce it does not expect to meet the target group EBITDA margin of 55 per cent in 2019, however, the apparent bad news did not seem to weigh on shares, as investors cheered the rise in revenue and profits, sending the stock up 4.17 per cent on the day. Also in favour with investors was Middle East-focused private healthcare operator NMC Health. After a poor year, with shares falling 38.4 per cent from their 52-week high in August to their 52-week low in early February, news of a joint venture with the Hassana Investment Company, a Saudi-based pension fund, sent shares higher. Under the agreement, NMC Health will own a 52 per cent stake through the combination of asset contribution and cash injection, with both parties agreeing to a long-term growth plan. NMC Health commented that its team in Saudi Arabia was “well positioned” to integrate and drive growth for the venture, which will “allow NMC to significantly increase its pace of expansion”.
In the red this week was Mexico-based miner Fresnillo after falling commodity prices and a poor set of final-year results hit shares. Mexico’s second-largest gold miner saw its share price fall over 20 per cent in the two weeks beginning 20th February as it tracked spot gold and silver prices lower, with the former falling from £1032/ounce to £979/ounce. A poor set of financial results reported on the 26t compounded losses after they showed only modest revenue growth of 0.5 per cent to $2.1bn and a pre-tax profit decrease of 35 per cent to $483.9m. The stock fell 8.34 per cent on the day as the results fell short of expectations, however, many brokers remained positive.
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