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MARKET REPORT: Halfords shares hit the skids

Shares in Halfords hit the brakes as Peel Hunt slashed its rating on the stock to ‘Sell’. 

Analysts said the group’s new store format wasn’t enough to stave off a rising number of challenges.

Higher oil prices mean people are driving less so they have less need for car maintenance, the broker said. Meanwhile, cyclists are not replacing their bikes as often as they used to and price inflation could lengthen the period between replacements further.

The broker added: ‘It’s hard to see a reason to hold the shares’. 

It reduced its target price on the stock to 325p. Shares tumbled 5.2 per cent, or 18.7p, to 338.1p.

Downhill: Halfords shares plunged after Peel Hunt slashed its rating on the stock to ‘sell’

Downhill: Halfords shares plunged after Peel Hunt slashed its rating on the stock to ‘sell’

Rentokil finished the year with a flourish, hiking its total dividend 15 per cent to 3.37p a share.

The pest control firm said full-year revenue climbed 11.7 per cent to £2.2billion while operating profit was up 11.9 per cent at £284.4million.

It made 41 acquisitions in 2016 and agreed a joint venture in December to create a workwear and hygiene services provider in Europe. Ongoing revenue soared 28.5 per cent in the US.

As the company continues its turnaround, restructuring costs came in at £7.1million. 

Stockbroker Stifel said the full-year results ticked a number of boxes and supported its ‘Buy’ rating, saying: ‘Rentokil has transformed itself into a steady, predictable and strongly cash generative business.’ 

Shares edged up 0.3 per cent, or 0.8p, to 236.8p.

The FTSE 100 finished down 0.42 per cent, or 30.88 points, at 7271.37.

STOCK WATCH – 32RED 

An acquisition announcement lifted shares in 32Red.

The online gaming company is to be bought by Kindred Group for 196p a share.

The bid values the business at £175.6m and is a premium of almost 15 per cent on the previous closing price.

Shareholders will also be entitled to a 4p-a-share second interim dividend.

Malta-based Kindred is a global firm with more than 15m customers. Shares in 32Red surged 16.4 per cent, or 28.25p, to 200.25p.

 

Construction outfit Morgan Sindall surged as it was back in the black. 

The business turned a loss of £10.3million a year ago into an operating profit of £47.4million in 2016. 

Morgan said its order book had increased almost a third to £3.6billion and it hiked its dividend 21 per cent to 35p a share.

The firm specialises in regeneration and working with housing partnership schemes. Profit in the division grew 40 per cent in the year.

The group said it was well placed to benefit as the UK struggled to cope with demand for affordable homes and the Government looked to invest in infrastructure and regeneration. 

Liberum, which has a ‘Buy’ rating on the stock, said profits could still almost double from here. Shares soared 9.3 per cent, or 84p, to 989p.

A boardroom shake-up boosted shares at software firm WANdisco. Yeturu Aahlad, 58, has been appointed to the board.

He was part of the team that founded the firm in 2005. Meanwhile chief operating officer James Campigli is stepping down. Shares climbed 3.4 per cent, or 13p, to 390.5p.

Playtech advanced as profit leapt 42 per cent to £163million. The business, which develops software for online gaming and sports betting, signed up 10 new customers in 2016 and renewed contracts with Paddy Power Betfair, William Hill, Rank and Betfred.

The group’s sports business was significantly boosted after it acquired BGT in the second half of last year and even without acquisitions, average daily revenue in its gaming division was up by 9 per cent in the first 52 days of 2017. Shares gained 0.8 per cent, or 7.5p, to close at 895.5p.

Flavour and fragrance ingredients maker Treatt soared after announcing that revenues were set to climb 20 per cent on last year.

It said new business wins, growth from existing customers and stronger margins were all driving the performance.

The firm said citrus and sugar reduction products were doing particularly well.

Pre-tax profit this year is now likely to substantially exceed expectations. Shares surged 20.8 per cent, or 54p, to 314p.

 

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