Stocks drift despite strong Hut Group IPO and M&A activity


UK stocks erased their early gains to trade marginally lower on Wednesday as investors awaited an update from the Fed due later in the day regarding the outlook for the US economy.

In contrast, sentiment in European markets was helped by a much stronger than expected ZEW survey in Germany which showed investors were more positive than thought on the prospects for a global economic recovery

By midday the benchmark FTSE 100 index had edged down 6 points to 6,100 while the FSTE 250 mid-cap index shed 33 points to 17,782.

E-commerce company The Hut Group made a stellar market debut after raising £1.88 billion via an initial public offer.

Shares in the company were offered at 500p, giving it an initial market capitalisation of £5.4 billion, and by lunchtime they were up more than 28% to 641p.

Employment background verification company ClearStar was another big riser, climbing 20% to 39p on news that it had accepted a £14.7 million takeover from a Hanover Investors pitched at 40p a share.

Iron deficiency focused Shield Therapeutics jumped 14% to 120p as it swung to a first-half profit on the back of a large jump in revenue.

Cafe, bar, and restaurant operator Loungers firmed 13.7% to 174p, even as it reported wider annual losses as government-imposed lockdowns forced the company to halt operations.

Loungers said that since reopening its sites, performance had rebounded with like-for-like sales growing 30% from 4 July to 13 September.

Construction firm Galliford Try gained 4.5% to 92p, as it reported narrower losses and suggested it could resume dividends in the not-too-distant future.

Galliford Try said it would revive payouts when it returned to profit, which it said it was expecting to happen in the current financial year through June.

Commercial vehicle rental group Redde Northgate gained 2% to 225p despite a fall in annual profit and a cut to its dividend, partly owing to one-off merger costs and pressure on revenue from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Redde Northgate said that in first four months of the new financial year, performance indicators across the company had substantially improved or fully recovered.

House builder Redrow added 0.5% to 459p despite also posting a slump in full-year profit and scrapping its final dividend due to the Covid crisis.

However, the company predicted that based on trading to date and its forward order book, it expected to resume dividend payments in 2021.

Professional services group RBG slumped 14.4% to 62p after it decided to postpone a decision regarding any dividend until the end of the year when it said it would have greater visibility in the outlook.

Notwithstanding, results for the first half were strong especially given the absence of investment gains and the business was running 'flat out' according to the chief executive.