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Wednesday 26 September 2018

Housebuilder Berkeley sent tumbling after failing to bolster production

The FTSE 100 Index closed up 24.38 points at 7,164.14.

The FTSE 100 Index closed up 24.38 points at 7,164.14 (Nick Ansell/PA)
The FTSE 100 Index closed up 24.38 points at 7,164.14 (Nick Ansell/PA)

By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

Berkeley Group endured a bruising session on Friday after the top-tier housebuilder spooked investors by failing to ramp up production.

The FTSE 100 Index closed up 24.38 points at 7,164.14, but Berkeley was left licking its wounds as the market took a dim view of its decision not to churn out homes at a faster rate.

The group said high transaction costs, the 4.5 times income multiple limit on mortgage borrowing and “prevailing economic uncertainty” were factors that meant it was “unable to increase production beyond the business plan levels”.

Shares in Berkeley tumbled 5%, or 210p, to 3,713p, sending rivals Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey down 9.2p to 527.2p and 2.6p to 184.2p respectively.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “Traders received an insight into the psyche of Berkeley Group today after the company hit out at planning permission policies and buy-to-let lending practices.

“The homebuilder maintained their positive forecasts and stated that its position is ‘resilient’, but the commentary about the backdrop indicates some nerves.

“The company is focused on London and south-east England, and house prices are a touch softer now, which is also weighing on the stock.”

Across Europe, Germany’s Dax pushed 0.4% higher and the Cac 40 in France was 0.3% ahead.

On the currency markets, a rally from the US dollar dragged on sterling, with the pound slipping marginally to 1.393 dollars.

Against the euro, the UK currency remained in positive territory, lifting 0.1% to 1.13 euro.

Brent crude stepped up 1.6% to 66.06 dollars a barrel as traders responded to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicting demand for oil will climb by 1.5 million barrels.

Elsewhere in UK stocks, JD Wetherspoon was left nursing a 6% shares fall after it said rising costs would hamper sales over the next six months.

The group posted a 36.1% rise in pre-tax profit to £54.3 million in the 26 weeks to January 28, with revenue rising 3.6% to £830.4 million.

Like-for-like sales rose 6.1% in the period, but chairman Tim Martin said that growth in comparable sales will be lower in the next six months as it stomachs an array of costs. Shares were down 81p to 1,214p.

A takeover approach from US suitor CME sent Nex Group’s stock price rocketing more than 30%, putting former Conservative Party treasurer Michael Spencer in line for a bumper payout.

The electronic trading firm was up 203.5p to 874p after derivatives trader CME mounted a preliminary approach.

The FTSE 250 firm has a market capitalisation north of £3 billion, with Mr Spencer holding a 17% stake in the company.

Meanwhile, outsourcer Mitie was suffering a tough session despite affirming that its turnaround plan was on track and will churn out higher cost savings than previously thought.

The group, which has been under pressure following a string of profit warnings, said that its transformation plan will now see it trim costs by £50 million a year by 2020.

It marks a 10% increase in cost savings as Mitie moves ahead with simplifying its corporate structure, outsourcing and automating some back office functions, merging its London offices into one and also overhauling its group-wide IT.

Shares sank 3% lower, off 4.9p at 156.3p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were easyJet up 33.5p to 1,658.5p, BP up 9.2p to 473.8p, Glencore up 6.4p to 385.5p, Pearson up 11.6p to 775.8p.

The biggest fallers were Berkeley Group down 210p to 3,713p, Evraz down 17.6p to 420.9p, Kingfisher down 6.9p to 343.4p, Tesco down 4.2p to 209.8p.

Press Association

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