Leading shares kicked on again in the afternoon session after US markets opened firmer, with the number of Footsie constituents showing a loss on the day being countable on the fingers of one hand.
Mining stocks are going well on hopes of a sustained recovery in Chinese manufacturing. Silver miner Fresnillo leads the sector higher but ENRC is also sharply higher after an upgrade from Credit Suisse.
Xstrata is also wanted, after it agreed to sell its 19.9% stake in Australian gold and copper miner Indophil Resources to Zijin Mining Group. Chinese mining company Zijin is using the Xstrata stake as a launch-pad for a bid for Indophil. It paid AU$1.28 per share for Xstrata’s stake.
Rio Tinto is also on the up despite the proposed sale of 56% of the Alcan Engineered Products Cable division to private equity investor Platinum Equity falling through.
Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered is emerging from the cloud it has been under since the Dubai World debt story broke, but Lloyds Banking has taken its place on talk that it is the most exposed of the UK banks to possible bad debts in Dubai.
Travel operator TUI joins Lloyds on the downturn, even though it saw profits rise in the year to September 30 on flat revenues. The company managed to raise ticket prices and keep its planes full.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has asked for views before deciding whether to reflect the cost of BT's growing pension scheme deficit in charges to rivals that use its network. To date, Ofcom has used BT's reported pension costs, excluding deficit repair payments, when determining regulated prices.
Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco has reversed earlier losses sustained after Barclays Capital downgraded the shares to ‘neutral’ ahead of results next week.
In other broker comment, property group Hammerson gets a lift from Morgan Stanley, which issued a ‘buy’ note on the stock.
Shares in pub group and brewer Greene King are fizzing after it shrugged off the worst of the downturn over the last six months with sales and underlying profits rising modestly thanks to a strong performance from its Scottish arm Belhaven. Revenue to 18 October rose by 4.3% to £464.5m. Operating profit was 3.3% lower than last year at £103.3m, but underlying profits rose by 2.8% at £62.4m. Fellow brewing and pub group Marstons rises in sympathy.
Sticking with the pub groups, hopes of an end to board room shenanigans at Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) have sent the shares soaring. The pub group axed a director and appointed its senior independent director as the new chairman. Richard McGuire, appointed by the investment vehicle of billionaire Joe Lewis’s Piedmont Inc, has been asked to step down. M&B also intends to get rid of non-exec directors Denis Jackson, Ray MacSharry and Douglas McMahon.
Irn Bru maker AG Barr warned that economic conditions continue to be challenging but said it is trading in line with expectations and remains confident of delivering its plans for the full year. Revenue for the quarter ended 31 October increased by 21.4% compared to the same period last year. Like for like sales increased by 10.8%.
Interserve has won a £200m facilities management (FM) contract with HSBC and is commencing service delivery today. In a three-year agreement, which has a potential two-year extension, Interserve will deliver facilities services at over 1,600 retail and 120 office sites across the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Shaftesbury, the property company with assets in London’s Chinatown and Covent Garden, said the economy in London’s West End remains resilient. The group saw property values rebound in the second half of the financial year, though over the full year to 30 September the company’s diluted adjusted net asset value (NAV) per share still fell to 336p at the end of September from 376p a year earlier.
Private equity investment firm Electra said its investment portfolio is ‘in good shape’ despite a tough year. NAV per share in the year to 30 September fell 4.5% to 1,720p from 1,801p, reflecting, in part, the requirement to write off its investment in office supplies group Vasanta.
Real Office is in need of additional cash and is early stage discussions with its company's bankers, the outcome of which are uncertain at this time, it says.
Smart card manufacturer Matica is lower after a disappointing 32.8% take-up of its recent rights issue.