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Sunday 23 September 2018

London’s blue-chip index closes higher as BA owner’s shares take flight

The FTSE 100 pushed higher as the airline group posted a strong increase in profits.

The airline group was one of the top climbers on the FTSE 100 (PA)
The airline group was one of the top climbers on the FTSE 100 (PA)

By Helen Cahill, Press Association City Reporter

London’s blue-chip index pushed higher at the end of the week, helped by a strong showing from British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG).

IAG’s shares flew up by 5.84% or 37.4p during the session, closing the day at 678p, making it one of the top risers on the FTSE 100 which ended the day up 0.86% or 64.45 points at 7,567.14.

It came as IAG reported a sharp increase in first quarter profit on Friday, helped in part by the timing of Easter.

Operating profit in the three months to March 31 rose 75% to 280 million euros (£247 million), traditionally the weakest quarter of the year for airlines, while underlying revenues rose 1%.

George Salmon, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “IAG is adding more passengers, and its planes are taking off with fewer empty seats. That’s helping the top line grow nicely.

“But we think the really impressive part of these results is the group’s tighter grip on controllable costs.”

It also emerged during the day that Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) had rejected two takeover offers from IAG.

Pearson’s shares also jumped up after it said its “cost efficiency programme” was on track to deliver £300 million of annualised savings by 2020.

The group was the top FTSE 100 riser on the news, with shares closing the day 7.66% or 63.6p higher at 893.6p.

Across Europe, France’s Cac 40 was up 0.26%, while the Dax in Germany rose 1.02%.

Sterling was down on the strength of the US dollar following healthy jobs data from across the pond.

US non-farm payroll data showed the unemployment rate fell to 3.9% in April, an 18-year low, although non-farm payrolls rose by just 164,000, less than analysts were expecting.

Sterling was down 0.37% against the dollar at 1.352. Against the euro, the pound was flat at 1.133.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “These number weren’t amazing, but the US jobs market is healthy. The earnings figures were a little disappointing.

“March earnings were revised lower too. Earnings data has become more important recently, and today’s numbers point to a plateauing in the US economy.”

In oil markets, Brent crude prices were relatively stable, rising 1.62% to 74.85 US dollars per barrel.

In UK stocks, HSBC’s shares were hit after it revealed a surprise drop in profits.

The London-based banking giant saw pre-tax profit slip 4% in the period to 4.8 billion US dollars (£3.5 billion), largely due to a hike in operating expenses.

The bank also announced a two billion US dollar (£1.5 billion) share buyback. Shares were down 0.96% or 6.9p at 714.4p.

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The bank was one of the biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 (PA)

Fantasy miniatures maker Games Workshop upgraded its profits forecast for the full year, but the retailer’s shares remained fairly flat over the session.

The Nottingham-based group said that a solid few months of sales in the three months to April 30 will help full-year profits to come in “slightly above expectations”.  Stellar results have been helped by online sales and the continued popularity of tabletop game Warhammer. Shares closed the day up 0.2% or 5p at 2,445p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Pearson up 63.6p to 893.6p, IAG up 37.4p to 678p, Reckitt Benckiser up 167p to 5,727p and BHP Billiton up 43.4p to 1,601.4p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Evraz down 8.4p to 481.6p, Standard Life Aberdeen down 5.4p to 362.3p, Berkeley Group down 47p to 4,076p and HSBC down 6.9p to 714.4p.

Press Association

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