StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 100 has closed at a new high this year buoyed by the possibility of mega-mergers, as well as the pound hitting a two-year low.

It comes as a stark contrast to both the US and Eurozone stock markets which have seen indifferent levels of trading today.

The UK's benchmark index closed almost 140 points, or around 1.8%, higher at 7,686.61, the highest it has been in the year to date.

Sterling continued to flag after a ramping up of no-deal Brexit rhetoric from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with the pound dropping below $1.23, the first time since March 2017 it has been that low against the dollar.

LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

The equity markets drew the most attention today after the London Stock Exchange and Just Eat confirmed negotiations that could see both involved in huge merger deals.

The London Stock Exchange confirmed on Monday that it was in talks to acquire data company Refinitiv in a $27bn deal.

Refinitiv is owned by a consortium of private equity houses and Thomson Reuters.

The tie-up, if approved, would create a UK data and trading giant, with Refinitiv shareholders expected to hold a 37% stake in the enlarged group with less than 30% of the total voting rights.

Shares in the London Stock Exchange surged 15.2% to £65.36 in early trade in one of the biggest one-day jumps in years for the FTSE 100 firm.

Yet the LSE still fails to head the FTSE 100 leader board on Monday, its steep share price jump trumped by the 24%-plus rally of Just Eat, the food delivery business.

That leap comes after the company confirmed an agreement in principle to merge with Dutch peer Takeaway.com in an £8.2bn all-share deal that would create one of the largest takeaway delivery companies in the world.

Under the terms of the deal, Just Eat shareholders would receive 0.09744 Takeaway.com shares for each share, implying a value of 731p per Just Eat share, a 15% premium to the closing price on Friday. Just Eat shareholders would own approximately 52.2% of the combined group.

Just Eat, which has come under stiff competition from the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats in recent months, saw its share price top the FTSE 100 leader board, up 30.1% to 827p.

Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT) is down 4.3% to 51p after it said it could replace Neil Woodford as its portfolio manager.

In an update, the FTSE 250 listed trust said it has held 'preliminary discussions' with rival fund managers about taking over management of the trust.

Discount airline Ryanair reported a 21% decline in profits in the three months to 30 June as pressure on fares and soaring fuel and staff costs cranked up the pressure on the company.

Ryanair reported profit after tax of €243m for the quarter, down from the €309m posted this time last year despite an 11% rise in revenue to €2.3bn.

But a 6% decline in average fares to €36 and a 19% hike in operating costs, particularly fuel and staff, acted as a drag. Fuel costs in the period rose 24%, the company says.

Ryanair shares dipped 0.5% with today's news largely expected, and the stock was last seen trading at €9.90.

Insurer Hiscox said half year profits grew 3% as higher volumes of claims weighed on performance.

For the six months ended 30 June, pre-tax profit before was up 3% to $168m, driven by a good investment return of 4.8% annualised, the company said. Gross premiums written up 7% in constant currency, with all business segments growing.

The uptick in premiums was partly offset by a higher volume of claims in the first half of 2019 than the same period last year.

Hiscox shares slipped 0.3% lower to £17.66, valuing the business at a fraction more than £5bn.

Alternative asset and corporate services specialist Sanne saw its shares price crash 34.2% to 495.5p after it told the market it will miss full year expectations.

The warning comes after pressure squeezed operating margins that will leave earnings per share 'below its previous expectations.'

This is despite record new business that saw revenue jump 17% in the first half to 30 June, on a constant currencies basis.

Shares in property giant Hammerson plunged 7.2% to 251p as it swung to a loss in the first half of the year, with net rental income slipping amid a challenging retail backdrop.

For six months ended 30 June, the company reported a pre-tax loss of £319.2m compared with a profit of £55.8n a year earlier.

Cranswick said revenue grew just 1.5% in the first quarter year-on-year despite rising exports to the Far East amid increased demand from China following the outbreak of African Swine Fever in the region.

The group also announced that it had acquired Katsouris Brothers, a supplier of Continental and Mediterranean food products.

Cranswick stock soared 8.6% to £27.98.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Market research firm YouGov will comfortably beat current full year market expectations as data products and bespoke research achieved growth rates 'above the industry average', the company said.

YouGov reported growth across all parts of its business with 'core target markets of the UK and US remaining key drivers.'

YouGov stock jumped 6.7% to 567.5p.

Building foundations specialist Keller said profits fell by nearly a third, in line with its expectations, led by a plunge in revenues in Australia following a decision to wind down construction activity amid deteriorating market conditions.

Keller shares reduced 1.7% to 645p.

Online corporate marketplace Proactis rallied 20.5% to 50p after it confirmed it has fielded several preliminary approaches to buy the company.


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