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London midday: Banks bounce back

Date: Tuesday 02 Mar 2010

London midday: Banks bounce back

Although base metal miners have reversed course and are now heading south the FTSE 100 index has added to early gains, helped by a surge in interest in banking shares.

Ahead of results tomorrow Standard Chartered is leading the banking sector higher. Part-nationalised lenders Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking go along for the ride. HSBC also recovers from the buffeting it received yesterday after mildly disappointing results.

Although base metals miners such as Vedanta and Lonmin are out of favour, Fresnillo, the world's biggest primary silver producer and Mexico's second largest gold producer, is still going well. The company more than doubled profit after tax in 2009 on higher metal prices and record silver output. Gold miner Randgold rises in sympathy.

South African platinum miner Lonmin has signed two separate contracts with the Xstrata-Merafe Chrome Venture and ChromTech for the construction of chrome recovery plants to treat the current tailings from UG2 concentrators at Lonmin's Marikana operations.

Insurer Prudential is under the cosh again as investors bale out ahead of an expected monster cash call to finance the group’s acquisition of AIG’s Asian assets.

RSA Insurance, meanwhile, has estimated that the cost to the company, net of reinsurance, of the Chilean earthquake is expected to be in the region of £30m.

Car insurer Admiral is all at sea despite reporting record profits and sales in 2009. The company cautioned that conditions will remain challenging for its price comparison site Confused in 2010 as competition increases.

Positive comment from UBS lifts chip designer ARM Holdings while temporary power supplier Aggreko is still in demand after announcing a World Cup contract win yesterday; Aggreko declares results later this week.

Persimmon completed 8,976 house sales last year and the housebuilder has seen a 7% increase in sales and steady prices since the start of this year. The number of legal completions was down 12% on the 10,202 achieved in 2008, but in line with the figure flagged in an update in January. The average selling price dropped to £160,513 from £172,994.

Irish companies are out in force today. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power’s results last year reflected how well the punters did with profits lower despite revenues rising slightly. The bookie says things are more even this year, despite the bad weather hitting the number of events.

Building materials maker CRH revealed a 55% drop in full year pre-tax profit and expects a difficult demand backdrop through much of 2010. Pre-tax profit fell to €732m for the year ended 31 December from €1.6bn the year before. Revenue for the year fell to €17,373m from €20,887m earlier.

Allied Irish Banks slumped to a loss €2.66bn last year as bad debt and loan impairment provisions hit €5.4bn in very tough conditions that it says show no signs of abating.

Mobile data services provider Zamano swung back into the black in 2009 and plans to focus more on new smartphone technology in 2010. The Dublin-based firm posted a pre-tax profit of €873,000 for the 12 months to 31 December. It made €3.1m in 2007, but a one-off €5m charge linked to the Direct to Consumer (D2C) division caused a €3.6m loss in 2008.

Specialist publisher Informa said its outlook remains uncertain after tough economic conditions resulted in a fall in profits in 2009. Pre-tax profits at the company, whose titles include the shipping newspaper Lloyd’s List, fell to £96.5m in the year to December 31 from £109m the previous year on revenues that slipped to £1.22bn from £1.28bn.

Strong demand for the latest home entertainment products despite the economic downturn helped set-top box supplier Pace post a sharp rise in profits in the year to December 31. Pre-tax profits climbed to £69.9m from £13.1m the previous year on revenues that rose to £1.13bn from £745.5m.

Engineer and ceramics group Cookson reported a 57% slump in full year headline pre-tax profit but expects its performance to 'recover significantly' in 2010 as end markets improve.

Ground engineering specialist Keller suffered a 34% slump in profits in 2009 and is yet to see any sustained upturn in orders.

Oil services firm Wood Group pointed to a sharp reduction in development activity as it posted a fall in profits in 2009. The Aberdeen-based group posted a pre-tax profit of $264.8m for the year, down from $384.1m the previous year as revenues fell to $4.92bn from $5.24bn.

Aerospace and defence systems group Meggitt posted a 3% dip in annual operating profit but expects to return to growth in the second half of 2010.

Insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson made a bit more than expected in 2009 and smashed revenue forecasts, led by its Risk & Insurance businesses.

Sportswear retailer Blacks Leisure has scrapped its planned £20.3m fund raising after rival and 28.5% shareholder Sports Direct indicated it might make a bid.

FTSE 100 - Risers
British Airways (BAY) 221.10p +4.10%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,578.00p +3.44%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 216.30p +3.44%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 37.92p +3.35%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 51.80p +3.06%
ICAP (IAP) 337.70p +3.02%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 974.00p +2.96%
Man Group (EMG) 231.30p +2.71%
Fresnillo (FRES) 803.00p +2.62%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,060.00p +2.51%

FTSE 100 - Fallers
Prudential (PRU) 496.90p -6.25%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 2,540.00p -3.82%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,237.00p -2.21%
Rolls-Royce Group (RR.) 556.00p -1.07%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 634.00p -0.55%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,280.50p -0.35%
Lonmin (LMI) 1,838.00p -0.22%
Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) 1,126.00p -0.18%
Cable & Wireless (CW.) 137.00p -0.15%
Pearson (PSON) 956.00p -0.00%

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