Retailers had a day in the sun yesterday, led by a big jump from N Brown – owner of the plus-size Simply Be and Jacamo brands.
Shares in the Manchester chain, which has steadily been shifting from its origins as the operator of the JD Williams mail order catalogues to a more online presence, were up 25 per cent, or 6.6p, to 33p after it reported full-year results showing profit doubling to £19.2million.
Management reported a ‘resurgence’ in demand for clothes and footwear, and said reintroduction of a dividend is being considered.
Profits up: Shares in N Brown – owner of the plus-size Simply Be (pictured) and Jacamo brands – were up 25% after it reported full-year results showing profit doubling to £19.2m
Analyst Clive Black at house broker Shore Capital has kept his profit forecasts steady for the new year and highlighted an imminent and ‘important milestone’ – the group’s first mobile-adaptable website for Simply Be.
Further down the High Street, WH Smith was lifted by US investment bank JP Morgan.
Having fallen almost 40 per cent from levels before the pandemic, the shares were up 1.2 per cent, or 18p, to 1522.5p.
The bank believes WH Smith is ‘fundamentally a higher-quality business compared to pre-Covid for three reasons’ – the roll-out of its travel shops, acquisitions providing opportunities to expand in the US, Europe and Asia, and a better business mix thanks to more profit from its travel sites.
The bank lifted its rating to ‘overweight’ from ‘neutral’ and share price target by 8pc to 1900p.The FTSE 250 fell 0.6 per cent, or 116.15 points, to 19949.44, while the FTSE 100 was in the red to the tune of 80.26 points at 7438.09.
The blue-chip index was brought down by Ocado amid news that consumer prices inflation had risen to a 40-year high of 9 per cent last month and the decision by Peel Hunt to slash its target price on Ocado shares by more than half.
The online grocer’s stock has been in general decline since then and fell 9pc, or 72.4p, to 727.8p
Stock Watch – Open Orphan
Open Orphan came into its own during the pandemic.
Its subsidiary, Hvivo, owns a facility in London that carries out human challenge studies using new vaccines.
Open Orphan was in the news yesterday after winning a £7.5million contract to evaluate a potential flu jab for an unnamed international biotechnology company.
It is one of a series of similar contract wins in recent months.
The shares, down 3.5 per cent or 0.5p, to 13.75p, have halved in value since the start of 2022.
But bargain hunters swooped on Rolls-Royce whose stock has dropped by almost 20 per cent over the past year, causing the shares to close up 3.5p, or 4.4 per cent, at 84.78p.
Top of the mid-cap leaderboard was Premier Foods after its annual profit proved exceedingly good, with its Mr Kipling brand enjoying its ‘best year ever’.
Helped by a 20 per cent dividend rise and a £60million improvement of its anticipated pension contributions, shares in the Bisto gravy maker wafted 10.1p, or 10.8 per cent, higher to 117.4p.
Encouraging results lifted metal flow engineer Vesuvius, which rose 6.7 per cent, or 22.2p, to 353p, while thread manufacturer Coats Group rose 9 per cent, or 6.5p, to 78.6p as it offset inflationary pressure with higher prices and productivity.
Vistry rose 3.6 per cent, or 29p, to 832.5p after the housebuilder upped its profit target for the year on the back of ‘strong demand’.
Darktrace dived by 15.2 per cent, or 57.8p, to 323.2p as a senior executive – the cyber-security company’s chief strategy officer, Nicole Eagan – was named as someone who is being investigated by the US Department of Justice for her role in the £8.9billion sale of software firm Autonomy in 2011.
In a High Court ruling, Eagan was named as ‘part of a clique responsible with the defendants’ for misrepresenting the success of Autonomy, allowing it to be sold for £8.9billion to Hewlett Packard.
There was little cheer for pubs as Mitchells & Butlers and Marston’s highlighted the challenges facing the hospitality sector as prices of raw materials surge and consumers limit spending.
Marston’s fell 7.2 per cent, or 4.5p, to 58p, while Mitchells & Butlers lost 1.4 per cent, or 3p, at 211p.
Tui, the tour operator, sank 12.9 per cent, or 31.8p, to 214.2p after it placed £360million of new shares to repay part of government funding from Berlin during the pandemic.