StockMarketWire.com - Stocks in London opened marginally lower amid a welter of blue-chip news, with overall trade slim across markets ahead of Wall St opening after the US Presidents Day holiday and as UK's House of Lords reconvenes to debate PM Theresa May's polarising Brexit Bill.

Not too long after the open, FTSE 100 was down 27.21 points, or 0.37%, to 7272.65. FTSE 250 was down 29.08, or 0.16%, to 18,717.1. At 8.28am, WTI crude was up 0.81% to $53.83/bbl and Brent was up 0.59% to $56.51/bbl. Gold was down 0.37% to $1234.5/oz, while copper was ahead.

HSBC (HSBA), down 6.42% to 666.55p and leading blue chips south, has reported impairment-laden FY pretax profits down 62.3% to $7.112bn, with adjusted pretax profit of $19.3bn broadly unchanged following solid performances from its global businesses.

Other banks and financials followed not too far behind. Among lenders, Standard Chartered (STAN) fell 1.72% to 751.85p, while Barclays (BARC) eased 0.86% to 235.45p. Among financials, St James's Place (STJ) lost 0.82% to 1093p and Old Mutual (OML) faded 0.48% to 215.45p.

Capita (CPI), down 2.29% to 502.25p, is to impair, at end-2016, a number of historic assets relating to a few specific contracts. Assets totalling about £50m would be written off as a non-underlying charge consistent with prior year treatment. Accrued income of around £40m would be written down as a charge to underlying results.

Meantime, Mediclinic (MDC), down 5.39% to 758.75p, said the challenging Abu Dhabi environment continued into H2. It was more upbeat about its platforms in Switzerland and South Africa. It was reviewing the AED140m carrying value of Al Noor, and expected to result in additional charges.

Overall, blue-chip risers and fallers were roughly evenly split, with those marching higher featuring both house builders and miners. Persimmon (PSN) led and was up 1.67% to 2035.5p, while Taylor Wimpey (TW.) was ahead 1.17% to 177.65p.

BHP Billiton (BLT), up 1.66% to 1423.25p, said its H1 underlying EBITDA rose 65% to $9.9bn, with a profit from operations of $6,057m, versus a year-earlier loss of $7,030m. The interim dividend of 40 cents a share was up from 16.0 cents in 2015.

Anglo American (AAL), up 0.33% to 1364.5p, reported a FY profit attributable to equity shareholders of $1.6bn, from a loss of $5.6bn previously. It reduced debt by 34% to $8.5bn, well below its $10bn target, driven by $2.6bn attributable free cash flow and asset disposals.

OTHER BLUE-CHIP NEWS

InterContinental Hotels (IHG), up 1.83% to 3949p, has posted FY underlying operating profits of $702m, up 9.5% on last time. Underlying revenues rose 4.6% to $1,582m and EPS increased 23.1% to 203.1 cents.

Wolseley (WOS), down 0.25% to 5002p, has agreed to merge its Swiss plumbing and heating business, Tobler, with Walter Meier AG, a Swiss heating and HVAC distributor. If the tie-up completed, Wolseley expected cash of CHF117.8m and 39.2% of the enlarged business.

BIGGER MOVERS

North River Resources (NRRP) plunged 73.68% to 2.5p as it announced a proposal to cancel its admission to AIM. It had already received irrevocable undertakings of 77.09% in favour, and it was thus anticipated that the cancellation would be approved at its March 17 general meeting.

Grafenia (GRA) dropped 24.59% to 5.75p as it said while print volumes in November and December performed in-line with internal budgets, those in January and early February were materially behind on the year. It was likely FY earnings would be significantly behind market views.

Trakm8 (TRAK), down 38.64% to 67.5p, is disappointed it has to substantially reduce expectations for this financial year despite having a very strong pipeline. "We continue to be frustrated by the timing of new order wins," the company said in a trading statement.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Lighthouse (LGT), up 18.81% to 15p, said its FY pretax profits rose 119% to £1.9m, while EBITDA rose 37% to £2.2m. New business from affinity relationships was up, with total revenues and average revenue production per adviser also gaining.

Gotech (GOT) rose 18.18% to 3.25p as it confirmed discussions with the National Health Service (NHS), which was looking to support a potential pilot with about 200 schools nationwide to assess the impact of skills2achieve in fighting childhood obesity.

Ortac Resources (OTC) added 15.69% to 0.03p as it confirmed Andiamo Exploration Ltd, its exploration partner in Eritrea, had raised $0.5m for the termination of its JV arrangement with Environminerlas East Africa Ltd. Emerald Ex subscribed for 5mln new shares in Andiamo at 10 cents a share, lowering Ortac's stake to 18.48%.

Image Scan (IGE) rose 13.33% to 6.38p as it reported a strong Q1 and said that, at this early stage of the year, the business was trading in-line with market expectations.

Airea (AIEA) fell 12.26% to 34p on lifting its H1 pretax profit to £0.8m, from £0.5m, but said while forex conditions would be beneficial there had been significant input price pressure resulting from commodity price rises. It noted wider economic uncertainty, too.

Wood Group (WG.), down 8.92% to 745p, posted a FY pretax profit of $66.0m, down more than half from $138.6m as revenue from continuing operations eased amid a fall in global E&P customer spending and challenging market conditions. Total dividend was 33.3 cents a share, up 10%.

Utilitywise (UTW), down 3.69% to 179.13p, performed in line with management views in H1, but was more upbeat about the performance of its Enterprise Division than that of its Corporate Division. It noted double-digit revenue growth in H1. Net debt was £4.1m, from £10.2m.

Some other stocks in the news included dotdigital (DOTD), Safestore Holdings (SAFE), Galliford Try (GFRD) and Balfour Beatty (BBY).


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