LONDON MARKET OPEN: Reckitt Benckiser gains after raising guidance

(Alliance News) – Stock prices in London opened higher on Tuesday with Reckit Benckiser leading the FTSE 100, while THG shares fell despite taking steps to improve disclosure and corporate governance.

The large-cap index was up 22.18 points, or 0.3%, at 7,245.30 early Tuesday. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was up 52.36 points, or 0.2%, at 22,994.14. The AIM All-Share index was up 0.2% at 1,231.40.

The Cboe UK 100 index was up 0.2% at 718.21. The Cboe 250 was up 0.1% at 20,693.52, but the Cboe Small Companies was down 0.2% at 15,537.34.

In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 stock index in Paris was up 0.2% while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.4%.

In the FTSE 100, Reckitt Benckiser was the best performer, up 5.2%, after the household goods maker said third-quarter revenue rose on a like-for-like basis and raised its full-year revenue guidance.

Reckitt posted net revenue of GBP3.28 billion in the three months to September, up 3.3% on a like-for-like basis compared to the same period last year.

Looking ahead, the Dettol cleaning products maker said following stronger-than-expected trading, it expects like-for-like net revenue growth for 2021 in the range of 1% to 3%, up from 0% to 2% previously guided.

Reckitt said it remains confident in delivering margin improvement in 2022 and is on track to exit 2022 with mid-single digit like-for-like net revenue growth.

B&M European Value Retail was up 2.2% after JPMorgan raised the discount store chain to Overweight from Neutral.

Bunzl shares rose 1.5% after the distribution firm said its third-quarter performance was helped by its diversification, as a recovery in its base business offset a decline in sales of Covid-19 related products.

Revenue rose 7.8% from the same time last year at actual currency rates and rose by 13% at constant rates. Underlying revenue growth at constant currency was 2.5%, as acquisitions contributed 4.2% to the revenue growth and extra trading days 6.2%.

Bunzl, which saw strong demand for its services in supplying Covid-19 personal protective equipment, noted adjusted operating margin was hurt by ongoing price deflation in pandemic-related products.

Looking ahead, Bunzl said it expects “slight” underlying revenue growth in 2021 compared to 2020 at constant exchange rates.

Whitbread was up 1.0% after the hospitality firm said its Premier Inn chain’s recovery in the first half was ahead of expectations as lockdown restrictions eased in the UK and Germany.

For the six months to August 26, revenue more than doubled to GBP661.6 million from GBP250.8 million last year. Pretax loss was nearly eliminated, narrowing to GBP19.3 million from GBP724.7 million. Whitbread declared no interim dividend, in line with year before.

Looking ahead, Whitbread said its sales recovery is ahead of expectations, and its UK like-for-like revenue per available room run rate has “potential” to make a full recovery next year.

Whitbread said leisure demand remains strong in the UK into heading into the second half, while business demand was improving.

Elsewhere, THG was down 5.8%, even after delivering an strong quarterly performance and outlining steps to improve its corporate governance.

For the three months to September 30, revenue was GBP507.8 million, up 34% from GBP378.1 million last year and up 86% on 2019.

Looking ahead THG said it remains on target to trade comfortably ahead of expectations set out at the time of its September 2020 initial public offering. Then, THG had guided to 2021 revenue growth of between 20% to 25%. For 2021, THG expects acquisitions to contribute GBP260 million to revenue.

Turning to corporate governance, THG has appointed Russell Reynolds Associates to undertake a search for a new independent chair as it seeks to move to the Premium segment of the London Stock Exchange in 2022. Founder Matthew Moulding will cancel his ‘golden’ share to facilitate the move.

THG also named a Softbank executive to its board as a non-executive director. Andreas Hansson, managing director of SB Management, will join the board immediately. Softbank back in May subscribed for USD730 million in THG shares and signed an collaboration and option agreement.

Stocks were mixed in Asia amid concerns over a fresh virus outbreak in China, which has left tens of thousands of people in lockdown.

The Japanese Nikkei 225 index closed up 1.8%. In China, the Shanghai Composite finished down 0.3%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was down 0.6%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney ended flat.

China placed a city of four million under lockdown on Tuesday in a bid to stamp out a domestic coronavirus spike, with residents told not to leave home except in emergencies. The restrictions came as China reported 29 new domestic infections – including six cases in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of northwestern province Gansu.

Officials in Lanzhou said the “entry and exit of residents” would be strictly controlled and limited to essential supplies or medical treatment.

The pound was quoted at USD1.3774 early Tuesday, little changed from USD1.3772 at the London equities close Monday.

The euro was priced at USD1.1605, down from USD1.1612. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY114.00, up from JPY113.68.

Brent oil was quoted at USD86.00 a barrel Tuesday morning, down from USD86.57 late Monday. Gold stood at USD1,805.75 an ounce, marginally lower from USD1,807.93.

The economic events calendar on Tuesday has a US consumer confidence index print at 1500 BST.

By Arvind Bhunjun; arvindbhunjun@alliancenews.com

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