Thursday, 12th April: Once again investor woes over tensions between the US and Russia/Syria kept markets at bay with many of the major Asian indices recording losses overnight. A lack of direction at the open in Europe gave way to slight losses in London, although with it being a Thursday, the index was scattered with ex-dividend stocks; ITV falling c.5%, much of which was through its final dividend of 5.28p. The blue-chip ended flat while more a more positive direction was recorded in France and Germany (+0.59% and +1.00%).
In the UK, early morning headlines were dominated by M&A activity as bus and train provider FirstGroup (+8.15%) have rejected a preliminary all cash takeover approach by US private equity firm Apollo Global Management while gambling software company Playtech (+5.70%) have been snapping up a stake in Italian betting and gaming firm Snaitech for €846m. Other dominant headlines from the day included pub group Greene King who have reported strong Easter sales despite bad weather impacting results.
Another name looks set to be disappearing from the UK High Street – well retail park really – as Carpetright has today announced they are set to close 92 stores, with 300 jobs set to be lost as part of the group’s restructuring plan. The group are planning a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) after two profit warnings this year whereby it will shut the worst performing stores and ask for rent concessions on another 113. The group are also looking to raise £60m through an equity placing, used to fund its strategy, reduce debt and reduce costs associated with the CVA. Shares closed -8.10%, recovering from >20% losses earlier in the day, bringing year to date losses to c.77%.
British Gas announced a price increase on Tuesday so it wasn’t going to take long for the next energy provider to follow suit. EDF Energy has today announced plans to raise electricity prices by 2.7% , affected 1.3m customers. Gas prices are set to stay the same. as EDF claim the price is associated with the “fixed costs associated with supplying electricity”.