FTSE Live: Latest news, analysis and insight from the City team

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Microsaic rescue raiser

Tech manufacturer Microsaic raised £5 million in a share placing with new and existing investors that will save it from collapsing into administration.

The company makes mass spectrometers, which measure the masses of isotopes and molecules and are used in a wide variety of pharmaceutical laboratories to develop new medicines. It specialises in making particularly small instruments, and has more than 60 patents.

But it was hit hard by the Covid crisis as many customers’ sites were closed and investment decisions postponed.

It had warned in December that, after failing to find a buyer, it it could end up going into administration. That has now been halted thanks to the promise of the lifeline funding.

Gerard Brandon, a tech entrepreneur, is being brought in as chairman and has agreed to subscribe for shares. Dr Nigel Burton, a former banker and director of several other Aim firms, has also agreed to buy shares and become a non-executive director.

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Kier wins £200m TfL deal

The road to recovery for infrastructure group Kier took it via the Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels today after its shares surged on the back of a major £200 million contract.

Its deal with Transport for London hands Kier responsibility for maintaining and managing pumping stations and 10 road tunnels in the capital over the next eight years from April.

The contract was revealed alongside a better than expected update on trading in the second half of 2020, having won places on long-term frameworks worth up to £11 billion in sectors including health and education.

It also highlighted progress towards annual cost savings of £105 million and said it was nearing a deal to sell its loss-making housebuilding division. According to Sky News, private equity tycoon Guy Hands is among the remaining bidders for the Kier Living arm.

A series of profit downgrades in recent years have dragged shares lower, hitting just 43p in November from 1,400p in 2017. They were 13% higher today, up 9.7p to 84.8p.

The improvement by FTSE All-Share stock Kier came during an upbeat session for the London market, with attention firmly focused on more details of Joe Biden’s fiscal stimulus plan and the resumption of Wall Street’s earnings season.

The FTSE 100 index climbed 11.12 points to 6,732.14, with HSBC 10.55p higher at 413.55p on hopes that it will soon resume dividend payments. The rest of sector was under pressure, however, with Barclays down 3p to 148.3p and Standard Chartered off 7.6p to 483.3p.

In the FTSE 250 index, strong figures from online appliances business AO World were offset by its warning of higher coronavirus-related costs. Shares fell 24p from their recent record high to 353.5p, even though UK sales jumped 67% in the Christmas trading period.

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Anti-obesity hires

OptiBiotix Health, the anti-obesity biotech company, saw its shares jump 7% after hiring two new executives with the aim of driving growth in new markets.

Christoper Nother will work as a consultant to support its cholestrol lowering LPLDL product with the hope of driving it either over the counter or with prescription statins or other medicines.

Dr Taru Jain will join in March to focus on business development in India and Asia. She currently works at Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals in India.

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Property group crisis

U+I, the regeneration property developer, saw its shares tumble 10% today as it reported a £50 million loss largely due to a big slide in its property valuations.

The group which has projects on in Kensington Church Street has suspended its dividend and its chief executive Matthew Weiner is stepping down today. Chief development officer Richard Upton is moving up to the CEO role.

Weiner admitted the company needed “to make pivotal changes and improve our performance to respond better to external pressures.”

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Aldi to create 4,000 jobs

Discount supermarket chain Aldi has delivered a new year pay rise for its 30,000 store staff and revealed plans to recruit another 4,000 shop workers over the year ahead.

The German-owned retailer said it will increase its national minimum hourly pay rate for store employees to £9.55 from February 1, from £9.40.

Those who work inside the M25 will earn at least £11.07 an hour, up from £10.90.

Aldi is one of the only UK supermarkets to pay for breaks and claimed that, including these, its national hourly rate for an average shift will rise to a sector-beating £10.11.

It came after Morrisons last week became the first UK supermarket to announce its minimum pay will increase to at least £10 an hour from April.

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Next boss joins board of Deliveroo

DELIVEROO moved to beef up its board today, appointing Next chief executive Simon Wolfson as a non-executive director.

That comes ahead of a float likely to value the food delivery giant at more than £5 billion.

Will Shu, founder and CEO, said: “Simon will bring great knowledge and insight to the company and help us in our mission to become the definitive food company.”

Deliveroo works with 140,000 restaurants and 110,00 riders.

Wolfson said: “Deliveroo is an exciting, innovative and fast-growing company that, like NEXT, relies on advanced technology to deliver a market-leading proposition.”

Bankers claim, based on the value given to rivals such as DoorDash, Deliveroo could be valued at up to £8 billion.

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Shopping centres landlord Hammerson has collected just 41% of the rent it was due for the first quarter.

The firm, behind Birmingham’s Bullring, said for the December quarter date, which covers the three months ahead, it has so far collected over a third of payments.

However, that figure is higher than at the same point in previous quarters in 2020 when the pandemic first hit.

The company has seen rental income knocked after numerous retailers and restaurant owners were forced to temporarily close sites for lockdowns.  

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FTSE up a touch

FTSE 100 got off to a strong start up a good 40 points but that’s tailed off a little bit this morning.

We’re now up 14 at 6734. Rolls-Royce having a strong session, up 4% and British Airways owner IAG recovering some of yesterday’s losses, up 1.6%. Next, Kingfisher and Barclays are all down more than 2%.

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WEF sounds alarm over Covid’s long-term business hit

The global pandemic has highlighted the gap between technology “haves and have nots” and the risk that poses to social cohesion, the World Economic Forum warns today.

Its Global Risks Report for 2021, its sixteenth, took the views of hundreds of CEOs and risk managers across the world. The WEF says the world needs to “wake-up”.

Unsurprisingly, infectious diseases are regarded as the biggest of the short-term risks”, with a possible “asset bubble burst” the greatest medium-term risk and weapons of mass destruction still the most worrying long-term risk.

But the WEF says that it has been warning about pandemics since 2006, noting “the world saw the catastrophic effects of ignoring long-term risks”.

Carolina Klint, a risk management leader at Marsh, said: “Economic and societal fallout from COVID-19 will profoundly impact the way organisations interact with clients and colleagues long after any vaccine rollout. 

“As businesses transform their workplaces, new vulnerabilities are emerging. Rapid digitalization is exponentially increasing cyber exposures, supply chain disruption is radically altering business models, and a rise in serious health issues has accompanied employees’ shift to remote working.”

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Moonpig shoots for the stars

Online greetings card firm Moonpig has confirmed it is going ahead with its stock market debut valuing the group at up to £1.2 billion.

The firm said at least 25% of its share capital will be made available for trading in the initial public offering (IPO), which is set to take place next month.

Investment firms BlackRock and Dragoneer have already signed up for £130 million worth of shares in Moonpig when it lists, at £80 million and £50 million respectively.

Moonpig – backed by Exponent Private Equity Partners, which owns a 41.3% stake – said last week that it was considering the move as it looks to expand and capitalise on the surge in demand for online cards and gifts amid the pandemic.

It comes amid a rush of IPOs as firms look to take advantage of stock market optimism over vaccines, with renowned footwear brand Dr Martens also revealing plans for a possible £3 billion flotation earlier this month.

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