FirstGroup in pole position ahead of rival Go-ahead…

FTSE indices were pared back further as the top three London indices are off c.5% each over the past seven days. Much like the end of last week, the sell-off was broad based, as the primary index retreated below 6000 for the first time since late February when the ‘global growth recession’ and China worries were at the fore in investors’ minds. Less than a handful of stocks in the FTSE 100 were in the green, as the index closed down 2.0%

Ashtead(+1.97%) traded up as it reported surging revenue and profit, along with a higher dividend for the year just ended as it also announced a £200m return to shareholders via a share buyback in the current financial year. The FTSE 100 listed company reported a 24% increase in pretax profit, coinciding with a similar scale increase in revenue.

FirstGroup climbed higher (+6%) as it announced pretax profit pushed higher to £113.5m despite revenue falling 14% in the year to the end of March, and announcing the loss of two rail franchises – First Capital Connect & First ScotRail. Brokers pointed to the strong cash outlook given by the group but warned on the challenges facing the firm in the First Bus division. This was as its transport operator rival, Go-Ahead re-affirmed its expectations for its full financial year – announcing difficult conditions for its bus operations in the fourth quarter and a hit to margins on its GTR rail contract. The Group traded more than 14% lower on the news.
The aforementioned Brexit worries were stoked as Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun urged its readership to vote out at the UK referendum.

This provoked equity market wobbles, and movements on the betting exchanges as the implied probability of a “Leave” outcome at the UK referendum reached its highest ever level at 44% on Betfair’s exchange. This followed more polls indicative of a “Leave” outcome.

At the close European indices were down with the FTSE 100 -2%, with the CAC 40 -2.29%, and the DAX 30 -1.43%.

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