StockMarketWire.com - FTSE indices were on the up in early deals thanks to gains among big-ticket banks, notably those with a strong Asia focus as the Shanghai bourse rose 2.9%. Asia markets generally rose overnight. Wall St was closed yesterday. Blue-chip stocks in the news included Whitbread (WTB) and Hikma (HIK).

Shortly after the open, FTSE 100 was up 67.3 points, or 1.11%, to 6141.82. FTSE 250 was up 156.94, or 0.93%, to 16,999.5. At 8.39am, gold was at $1120/oz and copper was at $235.95/lb. Three-month industrial metals prices were mostly lower, barring a mild rise in copper. WTI crude fell 2.84% and Brent rose 1.26%.

United Utilities (UU.) led blue chips up with its rise of 3.29% to 880p, and Severn Trent (SVT) was a little distance back. Asia-focussed banks HSBC (HSBA), up 2.39% to 505.8p, and Standard Chartered (STAN), up 2.38% to 718.1p, benefited from Shanghai and Asia's overall strength. Other banks rising included Barclays (BARC) and RBS (RBS).

Mining stocks made headway, but were off the banks' pace, this also applying to oil majors. Commercial property also figured to the upside. Hikma (HIK), up 0.76% to 2380p, has agreed to acquire 98.09% of the share capital of EIMC United Pharmaceuticals from a consortium of shareholders.

Whitbread (WTB) topped the roughly two blue chips lower with its fall of 2.39% to 4598.5p. It said total sales in the 24 weeks to Aug. 13 rose 11.8%, while on a like-for-like basis sales were up 3.9%. Premier Inn, restaurants and Costa enjoyed upticks in sales.

BIGGER MOVERS

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance has agreed a premium cash offer for Amlin (AML), valuing the group at about £3.468bn. Amlin shareholders would receive a premium 670p a share cash, and an interim dividend of 8.4p for each Amlin share. Amlin rose 33.05% to 655.25p.

Punch Taverns (PUB), up 3.8% to 126.63p, has agreed to sell its 50% shareholding in Matthew Clark (Holdings) Limited to Conviviality Brands Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Conviviality Retail (CVR), up 25.48% to 194.5p. Consideration was £100.7m cash.

Edenville Energy (EDL), down 16.67% to 0.05p, has reported good progress in partnership talks on the Rukwa coal to power project in south western Tanzania. Meantime, SQS Software Quality (SQS) fell 16.23% to 477.5p despite showing an improved H1 pretax profit, as traders focused on news of lower gross margin performance in Regular Testing Services.

Starcom (STAR), up 13.33% to 4.25p, has executed its delivery for a new contact with a major international organisation for its Helios Hybrid tracking system, following an international tender against a number of competitors.

Hochschild Mining (HOC), up 10.22% to 75.5p, has announced a significant new discovery at Pallancata and achieves commercial production at Inmaculada. The discovery of a new vein, Pablo, at the Pallancata mine, Peru, is expected to lead to a significant expansion of the mine's mineral resources.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Falkland Islands Holdings (FKL), down 4.81% to 217.5p, said it expected a satisfactory FY trading performance. Ashmore Group (ASHM), up 6.15% to 259.85p, said assets under management fell to $58.9bn in the year to end-June, down from $75.0bn.

Greene King Retail (GNK), up 1.26% to 821.75p, said its like-for-like sales grew 1.3% in the 18 weeks to Sept. 6 with growth of 1.9% in the last ten weeks. All major sales categories are in LFL sales growth.

Fenner (FENR), up 2.74% to 169p, expects group revenue and underlying profit for the year ended Aug. 31 to be in line with forecasts at the time of the trading update on July 22.

Hilton Food Group (HFG), up 2.38% to 430p, has reported strong underlying progress in the 28 weeks to July 12 with operating profits up 1.3% at £13.7m and volumes up 5% at 127,913 tonnes. Turnover fell 2.2% to £579.2m, but after-tax profits rose 0.9% to £10.3m.

Redrow (RDW), up 2.48% to 493.95p, has improved its FY pretax profit to £204m, from £133m previously. Final dividend was 4p a share, from 2p. McBride (MCB), up 1.99% to 121.88p, has swung to a FY pretax profit of £2.6m, from a prior-year loss of £21.3m.

Other stocks in the news included DS Smith (SMDS), Galileo Resources (GLR), Marimedia (MARI), Falcon Oil & Gas (FALC), KazMunaiGas Exploration Production (KMG) and Vernalis (VER).


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