MARKET REPORT: Future shares slump on online audience fears

Magazine publisher Future suffered its worst day since September after it warned of a decline in online audience numbers.

The group behind titles such as Country Life, Marie Claire and Four Four Two said tough trading conditions were likely to continue, meaning results for the year to the end of September should be ‘towards the bottom end of current market expectations’.

That would suggest a profit of around £256million, short of the £271.7million it made last year. Shares tumbled 15.9 per cent, or 166p, to 880p.

In September it plunged nearly 18 per cent when then-boss Zillah Byng-Thorne ‘informally indicated’ she wanted to step down by the end of 2023. 

Byng-Thorne left in March and was replaced by Jon Steinberg, ex-president of Altice USA’s news and advertising division.

Slump: Magazine publisher Future saw shares tumbled 15.6% after it warned tough trading conditions were likely to continue

But there has been a slump in digital advertising revenue due to lower online audiences in the UK and US. 

Group revenue remained flat at £404.7million in the six months to the end of March, while profit slid 3 per cent to £130.3million.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.3 per cent, or 19.07 points, to 7742.30 while the FTSE 250 rose 0.4 per cent, or 82.80 points, to 19298.25.

Markets around the world were given a lift amid growing hopes that the US could seal a deal on extending its debt ceiling.

Joe Biden’s administration has until June 1 to find agreement or face defaulting on its bills.

Back in London, the feel-good factor at JD Sports showed no signs of slowing after JP Morgan reiterated its ‘overweight’ rating on the stock and increased the target price to 215p from 210p.

It came a day after JD said it was on course to become just the fourth British retailer to make £1billion in annual profits. Shares gained 5.9 per cent, or 9.65p, to 172.65p.

Stock Watch – Non-Standard Finance

Non-Standard Finance warned its investors are likely to be wiped out under a proposal designed to save the cash-strapped lender.

It wants to tap shareholders for fresh funds but its top investor, Alchemy, has refused to participate. 

That left it eyeing an alternative transaction, which would see its business transferred to secured lenders in exchange for a loan to keep the business afloat.

It will likely fall into administration if the measure fails. It fell 63 per cent, or 0.28p, to 0.17p.

Housebuilder Vistry forecast higher profits following an improvement in sales since the start of the year. It expects profit ‘in excess of £450million’ in 2023, compared to £418million last year. Shares rose 4.6 per cent, or 37p, to 851p.

National Grid reported higher profits after a strong performance from its UK electricity distribution business. 

Profits rose 4 per cent to £3.6billion in the year to the end of March. It has invested a record £7.7billion during the last 12 months, with the majority funding its net-zero commitments. Shares fell 2.9 per cent or 32.5p to 1108p.

There was better news for Genuit after the UK’s largest producer of plastic piping systems said its profits for 2023 should be ‘slightly ahead’ of the £84million expected by analysts. Shares surged 13.8 per cent, or 41p, to 339p.

Likewise, Convatec lifted its annual forecasts after sales rose 3.1 per cent in the first four months of 2023. 

The medical equipment company, which makes high-tech bandages and wound dressings, expects revenue to grow between 5 per cent and 6.5 per cent this year. Shares added 5 per cent, or 10.8p, to 226p.

Energy group Energean sank 7.9 per cent, or 98p, to 1138p after it lowered its production guidance for this year.

Informa has agreed to buy Winsight, an events, data and media group focused on the food and beverage industry, for £306million. Shares in the exhibitions organiser rose 2.2 per cent, or 15.8p, to 722.6p.

It was a good day for Petrofac after the joint business led by the oil rig builder was chosen for a £1.2billion petrochemical engineering, procurement and construction project in Algeria. It soared 13.8 per cent, or 9.15p, to 75.4p.

Myhealthchecked landed a deal with Boots, the UK’s biggest chemist, to launch its new range of self-testing kits for areas such as bowel health, stomach ulcers and sperm concentration, both online and in stores. 

Shares surged 18.2 per cent, or 4p, to 26p.