- FTSE indices began on a positive note after yesterday's sell-down as canny traders pounced on value buys in the mining sector, with banks, utilities and insurers also making sorties higher. This after lower overnight sessions on Wall St and in Asia, while Europe was mildly up this morning.

Shortly after the open, FTSE 100 was up 7.36 points, or 0.12%, to 6142.58. FTSE 250 was up 9.74, or 0.06%, to 17,201.6. Bank of England's FPC meeting minutes are issued at 10.30am. At 8.45am, crude was up about 1% or more. gold and copper were at USD1075/oz and USD207/lb.

Blue-chip leader was Ashtead (AHT), up 8.34% to 1117p, as it booked H1 pretax profits up 20% to GBP 331.9m. Revenues rose 21% to GBP1.27bn. Miners rose after BHP Billiton (BLT), up 1.91% to 736.6p, and Rio Tinto (RIO), up 1.69% to 1925p, after yesterdays dive. Sector pals followed.

Utilities made headway after National Grid (NG.), up 1.09% to 919.95p, and SSE (SSE), while insurers traced Old Mutual (OML), rising 0.74% to 196.25p. Supermarkets gained after Tesco (TSCO), up 0.31% to 157.03p, and leisure-linked behind Carnival (CCL), up 0.33% to 3451.5p.

Blue-chip risers and fallers were roughly evenly split, with several miners figuring in the latter category. Fresnillo (FRES) dumped 6.36% to 626p. Oil majors slipped after Shell (RDSA), down 0.77% to 1505.75p, and several high-street retailers and consumer goods outfits eased.

In the news, RSA Insurance (RSA), up 0.06% to 430.35p, has signed contracts, subject to regulatory approvals, to sell its entire shareholding (c.75%) of Joint Stock Company Intouch Insurance (RSA Russia) to Joint Stock Insurance Company Blagosostoyanie for about GBP5m cash.


FinnAust Mining (FAM), up 59.09% to 0.88p, has signed a binding agreement to acquire an initial 60% interest in Bluejay Mining. Rose Petroleum (ROSE), down 22.73% to 0.09p, said it has implemented a radical cost cutting programme across the group to preserve its cash reserves in response to sector dynamics.

Focusrite (TUNE), down 15% to 161.5p, has hiked its FY pretax profit to GBP6.5m, from GBP5.8m. It recommended a maiden final dividend of 1.2p a share, taking the total to 1.8p.

Motive Television (MTV), up 28.57% to 0.02p, has reached agreement and signed an MoU with ABT Africa to provide educational content to tablet users in South Africa, with possible further expansion throughout Africa to follow.

Stagecoach (SGC), down 13.58% to 307.75p, has reported an H1 pretax profit of GBP90.8m, from GBP98.3m. This on revenue of GBp1.97bn, from GBP1.55bn. Interim dividend was 3.5p a share, from 3.2p.


Flowgroup (FLOW), up 11.29% to 17.25p, subsidiary Flow Energy has signed an exclusive conditional agreement with Shell Energy Europe for the provision of energy that would potentially enable significant growth in its energy supply business and increase the customer base for its mCHP Flow boiler.

Alternative Networks (AN.) said FY pretax and operating profits were 33% and 31% higher at GBP13.8m and GBP15.1m respectively. Proposed FY dividend was 16.4p a share, up 13%.

EasyHotel (EZH), up 8.59% to 69.5p, has posted FY pretax profits of GBP0.79m, up 38% on last time. It proposed a maiden dividend of 0.33p a share. Computer Sciences Corp (CSC) subsidiary CSC Computer Sciences International Operations has agreed a 190p a share offer for Xchanging (XCH), up 8.89% to 191.38p, valuing that latter group at GBP480m.

AFH Financial (AFHP), down 7.41% to 175p, has raised up to GBP6.5m gross via a placing of 2.7m new shares and a subscription of up to 1.2m new shares at a discounted 165p each. Carillion (CLLN), up 5.53% to 318.6p, is on track to achieve FY targets and has announced new contracts worth around GBP1bn. It noted strong revenue growth with operating profit in line with views.

Balfour Beatty (BBY), up 4.27% to 273.6p, said its 'Build to Last' transformation programme continues to gain traction, as new standardised processes and controls are rolled out across the businesses. It expected to be net cash positive at year's end.

Ophir Energy (OPHR), up 4.37% to 90.8p, has signed Heads of Agreements for LNG offtake from the Fortuna FLNG project with six counterparties, all of whom are established LNG buyers in European and Asian markets. Bilby (BILB), up 4.2% to 124p, has declared a maiden H1 dividend of 0.75p a share. Revenues rose 103% to GBP11.62m. Pretax profit was GBP0.07m, from GBP0.69m.

Petra Diamonds (PDL), up 1.93% to 62.28p, said the exceptional 23.16 carat pink diamond recovered in Tanzania has been sold into a partnership, with Petra receiving USD10.05m for the rough stone, as well as retaining a 20% interest in the sales proceeds of the polished.

Other stocks in the news included Savannah Resources (SAV), Alpha Pyrenees Trust (ALPH), Netcall (NET), Share (SHRE), Sophos (SOPH), Croma Security Solutions (CSSG), ULS Technology (ULS), Vectura (VEC), Tritax Big Box REIT (BBOX), Workspace (WKP), BBA Aviation (BBA), Redhall (RHL), Scholium (SCHO), SolGold (SOLG) and Begbies Traynor (BEG). Story provided by