FTSE falls as utility firms lose their spark

It was an unlucky end to the week for the FTSE 100 as utility stocks weighed on performance following media reports that the 'Big Six' lost 160,000 customers to smaller rivals last month.

Listed British Gas owner Centrica (CNA) and SSE (SSE) were among the top fallers, down 2.4% and 1.2%.

Water utility firm Severn Trent (SVT) also drifted 1.6% to £21.04.

The FTSE 100 dipped 0.3% to 7,535.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

The destruction left behind by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma helped boost demand for building materials and cars, according to the latest retail sales data in the US.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose by 1.6% in September, which strengthened investor sentiment and spurred a rally in all US indices.

The Nasdaq benefitted the most, trading 0.4% higher at 6,615 on Friday.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

British bank Aldermore (ALD) announced that the parent company of FirstRand Bank made a takeover offer for 313p per share in cash. Shares in the company catapulted 14.3% to 292.7p.

Rival Virgin Money (VM.) advanced 3% to 282.3p after the news. The bank also announced non-executive director Gordon McCallum would retire on 31 October. Amy Sterling was nominated to replace Gordon.

Investors were relieved that Provident Financial (PFG) did not issue yet another profit warning, although the lender confirmed it would not pay a final dividend.

In a spot of good news, the company revealed an improvement in collection rates for doorstop loans and the return of Chris Gillespie to run the home credit business after a four-year hiatus, helping its shares rally 12.8% to 890p.

Engineer GKN (GKN) tumbled 7.4% to 326.7p after warning profits would only be slightly above last year. The company said it was likely to rack up a £40m charge in the fourth quarter as it faced two 'significant external claims' and noted its US aerospace business had faced a challenging period.

Insurance group Aviva (AV.) agreed to sell its entire 49% stake in its joint venture in Taiwan to partner First Financial Holdings. The stock was unmoved at 499.6p.

Asset manager Ashmore (ASHM) impressed the market with an 11% jump in assets under management to approximately $65bn in the third quarter, causing the shares to surge 10.2% to 389.1p.

Shares in fund manager Man Group (EMG) were lifted 3.4% to 186.1p after its funds under management rose 28% year-to-date, driven by third-quarter net inflows of $2.8bn.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Anglo Asian Mining (AAZ) enjoyed a 19% boost in gold production in the third quarter to 30 September and also cut its net debt from $25.2m as of 30 June. Shares in the miner advanced 11.1% to 35p on the update.

Macau Property (MPO) announced that two of its directors of its investment management increased their stake to 16.8% through Sniper Investments, triggering a share price rise of 3% to 170p.

JKX Oil & Gas (JKX) slumped 8.9% to 12.7p after oil production declined 14.9% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2017.