UK stocks open 0.4% lower as RBS warns on lending outlook


UK stocks opened lower on Friday as the coronavirus death toll continued to climb and Royal Bank of Scotland warned of downward pressure on its lending volumes.

At 0824, the benchmark FTSE 100 index had fallen 29.24 points, or 0.4%, to 7.422.79.

Royal Bank of Scotland dropped 4.7% to 217.0, even as it almost doubled its annual profit, declared a special dividend and said it would change its name to NatWest.

The bank, which has just welcomed new chief executive Alison Rose, also warned a challenging market environment would weigh on lending volume and said it would incur additional costs downsizing its investment bank.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca reversed 3.0% to £72.46 after it posted a 22% fall in annual profit after rising revenue was offset by an increase in selling and other administrative costs.

Warehouse property investor Segro gained 1.7% to 937.3p, despite booking an 18% fall in annual profit.

Segro's underlying performance, however, improved on the back of higher rental income and it hiked its dividend 10%.

Water utility Pennon advanced 0.4% to £11.46 as it accepted a UK regulatory ruling for its South West Water unit that included a total expenses allowance of around £2bn.

Pennon also noted that its current dividend policy expired in 2020 and said it planned announce a new policy by its full-year results announcement, scheduled for 4 June.

Industrial fastenings manufacturer Trifast dropped 6.1% to 162.5p after it warned its annual underlying profit would be at the lower end of analysts' forecasts.

Trifast also said that it was continuing to monitor the coronavirus impact on its business.

The ongoing disease outbreak was having a more favourable impact on Aviation services provider Air Partner.

Its shares rose 6.1% to 75p after it confirmed that it had assisted with the evacuation of more than 300 British and EU nationals from Wuhan.

Molecular diagnostics group Yourgene Health added 2.7% to 15.15p after it chemotoxicity diagnostics assay was approved for sale in Australia.

Construction materials provider Brickability shed 0.3% to 73.8p, having completed the acquisition of roofing products importer McCann Roofing Products for £2.8m.