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FTSE rises but profits dive hits M&S and Royal Mail slashes dividend

Pound's fall boosts FTSE 100 but Marks and Spencer slumps on profits dive while Royal Mail jumps despite plans to slash dividend.

FTSE rises but profits dive hits M&S and Royal Mail slashes dividend

The FTSE 100 has risen, buoyed by the pound's continued fall, but shares in Marks and Spencer (MKS) slumped after the retailer reported a 10% fall in annual profits.

The UK blue-chip index rose 31 points, or 0.4%, to 7,346 as international earners received a boost from the pound's half-a-cent drop against the dollar and 13th straight day of losses against the euro, a new record.

Shares in Marks and Spencer fell to the bottom of the index, down 6.5% at 253.5p after reporting a 9.9% fall in profits to £523.2 million for the 12 months to the end of March.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said that with the retailer in the midst of a turnaround plan, 'we are judging ourselves as much by the pace of change as by the trading outcomes'.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said investors' patience with the company was wearing thin.

'Some stocks feel like they are permanently in turnaround mode and high street stalwart Marks and Spencer certainly falls into that category,' he said.

'A succession of chief executives have tried and failed largely to restore its clothing division to former glories even if the food business has been a relative light amid the gloom.'

Fears over Brexit meanwhile weighed on stocks focused on the UK domestic economy, as prime minister Theresa May's fourth attempt to win parliamentary backing for her deal appeared to collapse.

House builders dropped to the bottom of the FTSE 100, with fallers including:

  • Persimmon (PSN) -4.2% at 943.2p;
  • Barratt Developments (BDEV) -2.7% at 581p;
  • Taylor Wimpey (TW) -2.4% at 171.7p;
  • Berkeley (BKGH) -2% at £36.42.

It was the same story on the FTSE 250, whose stocks have a greater focus on the UK domestick economy. Gains were more muted on the 'mid-cap' index, which edged 0.1% higher.

Galliford Try (GFRD) and Crest Nicholson (CRST) were the heaviest hit among the mid-cap builders, down 3.2% at 599p and 3.3% lower at 364.2p respectively. Redrow (RDW) dropped 3% to 558p.

Babcock (BAB) fell to the bottom of the index, down 7.3% at 470.4p after the engineering services group issued a profit warning.

Royal Mail (RMG) was meanwhile among the risers, up 7.4% at 227.1p despite announcing plans to slash its dividend by 40%.

The postal group said next year's dividend will fall to 15p, down from 25p this year, to fund a five-year turnaround plan focused on boosting revenues from its parcels business. 

Investors welcomed the move. 'Parcel post boxes and a second daily parcel delivery service for next-day orders are great improvements and help it compete with more nimble rivals,' said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

'Investors hungry for yield may be disappointed, but strategically it is absolutely the right move.'

IG Group (IGG) jumped to the top of the FTSE 250, surging 13.1% to 536.8p as the online stockbroker unveiled its plan to drive growth.

Pets At Home (PETSP) jumped 11.9% to 165.6p after reporting better-than-expected revenues, while Metro Bank (MTRO) continued to recover from lows, up 10.4% at 779p.

Among 'small-cap' stocks, Superdry (SDRY) jumped 11.5% to 516p as investors welcomed the appointment of retail veteran Nick Gresham as chief financial officer.

On the Alternative Investment Market, SafeCharge International (SCHS) surged 22.1% to 427.5p after US payments technology firm Nuvei said it would buy its UK-listed rival for $889 million, or $5.55 (432p) per share.

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