StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 100 was up 0.3% to 6,676.89 by midday although off its high point for the day with its gains underpinned by strength in the oil and gas sector amid oil price strength on a busy day for corporate news.

Associated British Foods today said it expected to reopen 83% of Primark stores by 26 April, and forecast better-than-expected first-half performance for its grocery, sugar, agriculture and ingredients businesses.

Its share price was up 0.3% to £24.45.

Spectris' share price was down 2.6% at £30.17 in spite of announcing a 5% increase in its full year dividend for 2020, alongside a £200 million share buyback programme.

Defence company BAE Systems touted profit growth for 2021 after reporting a fall in annual profit as higher costs offset a climb in revenue.

For the year ended 31 December, pre-tax profit fell to £1.60 billion from £1.63 million year-on-year, while revenue increased 5.5% to £19.28 billion. Its share price was up 0.9% at 500.6p.

Standard Chartered has reported a 3% fall in income for 2020 to $14.8 billion and a 40% drop in underlying profit before tax driven by COVID-related elevated impairments and lower interest rates. Its share price fell 5.2% to 482.9p.

Mondi's share price has remained relatively stable, down just 0.3% at £17.96 in spite of announcing an 8% fall in group revenue, while pre-tax profits fell 30% when compared to the previous year.

In its results statement for the 12 months to December 31, 2020, the company reported an underlying EBITDA of €1,353 million, with margin of 20.3%. Rumours of a bid for Mondi for its rival DS Smith sent shares in the latter 6.7% higher to 409.6p though neither party commented on the reports.

British gas owner Centrica reported a slump in adjusted profit for the year as warmer weather and the pandemic impact weighed on demand.

For the year ended 31 December 2020, adjusted operating profit from continuing operations fell 31% year-on-year to £447 million as revenue slipped 9% to £24.4 billion. Its shares fell 3.6% to 51.6p.

Luxury carmaker Aston Martin Lagonda kept its guidance for 2021 unchanged after reporting wider annual losses as sales fell sharply owing to the pandemic impact and an ongoing plan to cut dealer inventory.

The announcement sent its shares up 6.6% to £21.30. For the year ended 31 December, pre-tax losses widened to £119.6 million from £466 million, as revenue fell 38% to £611.8 million.

Building materials distributor Grafton resumed its dividend but at lower rate than last year, after reporting annual profit fell by nearly quarter owing to first-half branch closures as result of the pandemic. Its shares moved 1.9% higher to £10.05.

Wealth management group, St James's Place saw a 5.3% fall in gross inflows during 2020 at £14.3 billion compared to £15.1 billion the year before. Its shares dipped 0.3% to £12.24.


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