Top UK Stocks to Watch: Informa stays on track as it appoints new chair

Informa says trading remains on track as it appoints a new chair, Greggs shares surge despite warning profits won’t recover until 2022, while Carnival says cruises in New Zealand will remain suspended for longer.


FTSE 100 news

Below is a guide to the top news from FTSE 100 shares today.

Informa appoints new chair as trading stays on track

Information technology outfit Informa said revenue in 2020 should be in line with guidance of £1.65 billion to £1.68 billion, while adjusted operating profit should be in the range of £250 million to £270 million. The update comes ahead of its full year results being published on April 22.

‘The Informa Group enters 2021 with an intention to use the progressive return from COVID-19 to deepen our use of digital and data services, thereby ensuring our products and brands remain relevant in a post pandemic world. The continued strength and growth of our subscription businesses and our prior decision to extend the physical Events Postponement Programme should serve us well as markets gradually open up and customer confidence recovers in the latter half of 2021,’ said chief executive Stephen Carter.

In a separate announcement, Informa said it has chosen John Rishton to succeed chairman Derek Mapp in June, when it will hold its annual general meeting. Rishton has previously worked on the board of consumer goods giant Unilever and was chair-elect of Serco.

Informa shares were trading 1.5% higher in early trade at 543.9p.

Auto Trader’s recovery scuppered by latest lockdown

Auto Trader said it expects sales to be hit in January and February as a result of the latest lockdown. The company said demand for cars was up 20% year-on-year during October and December but will now be hit as demand for cars drops whilst people stay at home.

The company has been allowing customers to advertise for free in an effort to boost activity and Auto Trader said it will allow this to continue during February while also extending payment terms for January invoices. However, it warned it will book an operating loss of £5 million to £7 million each month it offers free advertising to customers.

It said its balance sheet remains healthy, with most of its revolving credit facility still undrawn.

Auto Trader shares were down 0.3% in early trade at 598.5p.

AstraZeneca gets US priority review for Farxiga

AstraZeneca said its Farxiga drug has been granted priority review in the US for the treatment of chronic kidney disease. Priority reviews are conducted on drugs that ‘offer significant advances’ to existing treatments, according to the company. The Food & Drug Administration is expected to review the drug in the second quarter of 2021. AstraZeneca said 37 million Americans have chronic kidney disease.

AstraZeneca shares were down 0.1% in early trade at 7408p.

FTSE 250

Below is a guide to the top news from the FTSE 250 today.

Greggs forecasts annual loss of up to £15 million

Greggs said it expects to book an annual pretax loss of up to £15 million in 2020 as trading continues to be hit by lockdown restrictions and people staying at home. The baker said sales fell to £811 million in 2020 from £1.16 billion the year before.

Sales in the fourth quarter dropped to £293 million from £344 million. Greggs said like-for-like (LfL) sales in the final quarter ran at 81.1% of the same period a year earlier. As it delivers more goods through apps like Just Eat, it said delivery sales were equal to 5.5% of shop sales in the last three months of the year.

‘Looking ahead, the significant uncertainty over the duration of social restrictions, along with the impact of higher unemployment levels, makes it difficult to predict performance.  However, we do not expect that profits will return to pre-COVID levels until 2022 at the earliest,’ the company warned.

Still, Greggs is in a solid financial position with net cash of £37 million.

Greggs will report its preliminary results for 2020 on March 16.

Greggs shares were up 7% in early trade at 1899.5p. City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta has a look at the Greggs share price from a technical viewpoint.

Carnival says P&O Cruises in New Zealand will remain suspended

Carnival said P&O Cruises Australia will keep operations suspended in New Zealand until April 25 as it continues to work with authorities on how and when sailing operations can begin again. Sailing was originally scheduled to recommence in early February but had already been pushed back to March. It said it is working to clarify the situation for customers that have bookings in 2021.

‘We know that much better days lie ahead and we remain positive about the resumption of cruising. While we've paused operations, P&O Cruises together with the wider industry has been using the time wisely to plan for cruising's return,’ said Sture Myrmell, president of P&O Cruises Australia.

In Australia, Carnival said the Pacific Adventure is due to begin sailing from Sydney on April 30 while Pacific Encounter is due to dock at Brisbane from May 7.

Carnival said it intends to provide an update to analysts on the wider business and its performance in the fourth quarter of 2020 on January 11.

Carnival shares were up 1.7% in early trade at 1310.3p.

Aggreko says Olympic supply contract worth $315 million

Aggreko said it expects to earn $315 million in total revenue from its contract with the Tokyo Organising Committee after taking into account revisions that have been made to take into account the delay to the Olympics due to the coronavirus.

It said its profit guidance for the 2021 ‘assumes the Games proceed as planned at this increased overall contract value’.

Aggreko shares were up 3.4% in early trade at 658.5p.

IP Group injects more funds into Oxbotica

Intellectual-property investor IP Group said it has invested a further £4 million into Oxbotica as part of its wider £36 million fundraising. IP Group said it owns 15% of the Oxbotica, which develops software for autonomous vehicles. The funds will help Oxbotica accelerate the commercial development of its software. Other investors in Oxbotica includes Halma and Tencent.

IP Group shares were up 3.7% in early trade at 107.3p.

Travis Perkins appoints Jasmine Whitbread as chair

Travis Perkins said Jasmine Whitbread, currently the chief executive of business campaigning group London First, will takeover as chair of the company at the end of March. Whitbread will succeed Stuart Chambers, who announced his departure last year.

Travis Perkins shares were up 1.5% in early trade at 1397.8p.

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