Saturday 14 December 2019

Household giant Reckitt Benckiser drags top-flight lower

The FTSE 100 Index closed down 47.04 points at 7,247.66.

A view of the London Stock Exchange sign in the City of London (PA
A view of the London Stock Exchange sign in the City of London (PA

By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

London’s top flight was left languishing in the red on Monday, dragged lower by Reckitt Benckiser over fears the household goods giant may miss sales targets.

The FTSE 100 Index closed down 47.04 points at 7,247.66, with Reckitt sliding more than 7% as investors reserved their optimism over sales targets.

Shares were down 493p to 6,075p as the Durex-to-Dettol firm pencilled in total revenue growth of 13% to 14% for 2018, and a 2% to 3% rise in like-for-like sales.

The company said net revenue came in at £11.5 billion for the year to December 31, with sales flat on a like-for-like basis.

A stronger fourth quarter failed to fully counter a year that featured challenging market conditions and significant disruptions following a cyber attack last summer.

Across Europe, Germany’s Dax and the Cac 40 in France were down 0.5% and 0.4% respectively.

Fiona Cincotta, City Index’s senior market analyst, said: “The FTSE has failed to recover from the recent global equities sell-off in the same remarkable way as Wall Street or even the Dax.”

On the currency markets, the pound was marginally lower versus the US dollar at 1.40 and down 0.1% against the euro at 1.12.

The price of oil was up 0.8% at $65.35 as increased tensions between Israel and Iran raised the prospect of a disruption to global supply.

In UK stocks, Merlin Entertainment’s shares raced higher after it was revealed that activist hedge fund ValueAct had taken a stake in the Alton Towers owner.

The group was up 14.1p to 356.5p, with ValueAct holding 5.4% of the business, putting it just behind BlackRock Investment Managers which holds a 5.5% stake.

The stake could mean further pressure on Merlin’s executive board, which last summer said it was having difficulty drawing people to its London attractions and UK theme parks following a number of terror attacks.

Away from the top tier, convenience store group McColl’s took a tumble after sales suffered from the collapse of wholesaler Palmer & Harvey.

Total like-for-like sales for the 11 weeks to February 11 slipped 2.2%, having been “held back” by sales in stores that were formerly supplied by the wholesaler.

McColl’s said it had put contingency plans in place which included entering into a new short-term supply contract with Nisa in December, and starting its supply partnership with Morrisons earlier than planned to stock the same stores with tobacco.

Shares sunk more than 3%, down 8p to 241p.

In a contrast of fortunes, precious stones miner Petra Diamonds’ shares sparkled as investors shrugged off falling earnings thanks to a jump in production.

Petra was up 3.2p to 71.9p as half-year production climbed 10% to 2.2 million carats.

However, adjusted earnings came under pressure, slipping 8% to $80.1 million (£57.3 million) for the six months ending in December.

The group suffered an $18 million (£12.9 million) hit from strike action in South Africa, unfavourable currency translations and the confiscation of a package of diamonds from its Williamson mine in Tanzania.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Evraz up 17.4p to 412p, Standard Life Aberdeen up 8.7p to 372.9p, International Consolidated Airlines Group up 8p to 616p, and Mondi up 18.5p to 1,881.5p.

The biggest fallers were Reckitt Benckiser down 493p to 6,075p, Shire down 91.5p to 3,110.5p, Micro Focus International down 60p to 2,058p, and Fresnillo down 39p to 1,361p.

PA Media

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