StockMarketWire.com - The UK market trod water on Thursday as the coronavirus saga continued to dominate the headlines, with the FTSE 100 index flat at 7,461 points.

Dividend payments by heavyweight stocks such as GlaxoSmithKline, Imperial Brands and Unilever also detracted from the headline index performance.

On a busy day for company announcements, medical technology firm Smith and Nephew saw its shares gain 7.7% to £19.88 after revenue growth more than doubled in the past year.

Chief executive officer Roland Diggelmann said the improved underlying revenue growth in 2019 was the best for several years and has 'propelled group sales above $5 billion for the first time in our history.'

Industrial measuring equipment maker Spectris reported higher operating profits and proposed a £175 million special dividend and share consolidation, sending its shares up 5% to £28.73.

While like for like sales at the company grew 0.4% over the 12 months to December 31, the firm increased its operating profit margin by a healthy 50 basis points.

High street bank Lloyds warned it expected lower returns this year after reporting that profit fell by more than a quarter in 2019 on lower net interest income and costs associated with provisions for payment protection insurance (PPI) claims.

The bank said it expected to report a return on tangible equity, a measure of profitability, within a range of 12% to 13% this year compared with its previous targets of 14% to 15%.

For the year ended 31 December 2019, pre-tax profit fell 26% to £4.3bn as net income declined 4% to £17.1bn on the back of a 3% fall in net interest income.

Shares rose 3.5% to 57.8p suggesting investors were braced for even worse news.

Defense company BAe Systems reported a rise in profit amid better-than-expected performance in its maritime business, boosting its share price by 2.7% to 658p.

For the year ended 31 December, pre-tax profit rose to £1.62bn from £1.2bn on-year as revenue increased to £18.3bn from £16.8bn thanks to Maritime sales which were 5% ahead of forecasts.

Funds group Rathbone Brothers gained 1.6% to £19.89 after assets under management (AUM) surged 14.3% last year to £50.4 billion.

Funds in its investment management arm grew 11.7% to £43 billion, while the unit trust business grew funds to £7.4 billion from £5.6 billion the previous year.

Engineering software firm Aveva dropped 3.5% said it had achieved high single-digit revenue growth in the first ten months of the financial year, but it flagged weakness in China amid virus-led disruptions, sending its shares down 3.5% £51.03.

'The ongoing disruption in China, caused by the coronavirus, due to travel restrictions and office closures, is having some impact on sales in that country,' the company said. China historically accounted for around 5% of overall revenue.




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