MARKET REPORT: Worst is over for Regus as workers trickle back

MARKET REPORT: Worst is over for office provider IWG as inquiries about shared work spaces shoot back to pre-pandemic levels

The boss of office provider IWG has insisted ‘the worst is behind us’ after the number of inquiries about its shared work spaces shot back to pre-pandemic levels.

IWG offers serviced, open-plan offices and meeting rooms that can be booked by the hour.

Chief executive Mark Dixon said that after a year of remote working, March and April had marked an ‘inflection point’ for many companies that are now plotting to bring people back to the office.

In demand: Regus owner IWG offers serviced, open-plan offices and meeting rooms that can be booked by the hour such as this space in London Bridge

This is still expected to take some time as many firms will be loath to rush the process and over-commit to renting space in case stricter social distancing requirements come back. 

But the Regus owner said it was benefiting from demand for satellite offices outside major cities and away from company HQs

Interest in the London suburbs has been stronger than for the centre, while in the US, inquiries for Florida and Texas have surpassed those for New York. 

Stock Watch – Scotgold Resources 

Scotgold Resources shares sank after the company warned production at its gold mine, which is built into the side of a Scottish mountain, will be ‘slower than planned’.

The AIM-listed group said it could not currently access high-quality gold at its site in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Because of the delays, it will need to seek fresh financing, which could come in the form of a loan from its directors.

Scotgold’s stock fell 22 per cent, or 15.5p, to 55p.

During the first quarter it signed deals with big-name clients such as Japanese telecoms group NTT and banking giant Standard Chartered.

But investors remain sceptical. IWG fell 0.9 per cent, or 3.2p, to 359.8p, as it also revealed that revenues slumped by 24 per cent to £528million in the first quarter.

Sanctuary Spa and Original Source-owner PZ Cussons also failed to rouse shareholders despite turnover in the third quarter rising 5 per cent to £145million and business in all regions outdoing the previous year.

It has been boosted by strong demand for hygiene products such as soap during the pandemic, but fell 0.7 per cent, or 2p, to 266.5p. 

Holiday group Jet2 was a hit – rising 3 per cent, or 42.5p, to 1458p – as it said customers were leaving it until the last minute to book trips in case travel rules changed. It has pencilled in a loss of up to £385million in the year to March 31.

A lukewarm update from engineering and industrial software maker Aveva was eclipsed by the shock announcement that boss Craig Hayman will be leaving to be replaced by a representative from the biggest shareholder, Schneider Electric.

Hayman is quitting after three years, returning home to the US.

Schneider owns 60pc of Aveva’s shares, and the highly unusual move to replace a boss with an investor rep who is being ‘seconded’ to the role has prompted speculation that it is plotting a full takeover.

Aveva slumped 5.4 per cent, or 212p, to 3695p, weighing down on the wider FTSE 100, which closed 0.3 per cent lower, down 18.15 points, at 6944.57. The FTSE 250 fell 0.6 per cent, or 144.26 points, to 22,433.08.

A slip in gold prices below $1.78 an ounce dragged on the share prices of major miners Polymetal (down 2.8 per cent, or 44.5p, to 1559.5p) and Fresnillo (down 2.2 per cent, or 20.2p, to 886.6p).

But copper prices climbed to their highest level in a decade, surpassing $9,795 a tonne, nearing all-time highs as worries about supply sent traders into a frenzy.

Elsewhere, smoke detector and automatic door sensor-maker Halma dipped 1.1 per cent, or 29p, to 2601p after it bought a firm that monitors mothers and babies during childbirth.

Perigen’s software technology can alert doctors, nurses and midwives to potential problems.

Test and Trace outsourcer Serco has clinched contracts worth £350million from the Department for Work and Pensions to run ‘back-to-work’ services for jobseekers.

It came a day after a Serious Fraud Office trial of former Serco executives over a prisoner tagging scandal was dropped because the crime watchdog failed to disclose evidence to the defence. Serco rose 1.7 per cent, or 2.4p, to 143.8p.