London Evening Standard, market report column [London Evening Standard]
(Evening Standard (London, England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 23--The City was cheered by knockout results for US tech giants Google and IBM but the applause didn't stretch to the UK's tech trooper -- Sage Group.
Overnight, Google reported pounds sterling 9 billion in revenues for its fourth quarter, taking sales for the year to pounds sterling 31 billion. IBM, -- the world's largest technology services company -- also gave a better-than-expected outlook for this year after a solid fourth quarter. But poor old software specialist Sage is finding Europe a struggle and shares shuffled down 2.3p to 314.75p -- one of the worst performers on the benchmark index today.
Newcastle-based Sage said there were no problems at its businesses across the UK, Ireland, North America, Brazil and South Africa but mainland Europe remains "challenging". Analyst George O'Connor at Panmure Gordon repeated his Sell rating of the stock and asks are "the shares wasting my time "
The business was the subject of takeover talk last year but rumours have died and, as well as his Sell recommendation, O'Connor slaps a price target of 297p on the shares and thinks Sage "needs to grind through the conditions". He prefers Micro Focus, up 6.5p to 611.5p, which he thinks will have been boosted by news that IBM reported 56 percent growth in the computer system Mainframe -- which he says is "a good early lead indicator of health in Micro Focus' core market".
He said punters looking for "low growth and a handsome dividend yield" would be "better off switching to Micro Focus".
Shares that were attracting reheated, but vague, bid chatter were retailer Marks & Spencer -- up 3.8p to 373.6p -- and oil and gas specialist BG Group, which rose 3p to 1147.75p.
The strong results from companies stateside ensured the top-flight index moved in positive territory and reached a new four-and-half-year high, gaining 12.2 points to 6191.37 today.
Consumer goods giant Unilever led the risers after it announced forecast-beating 6.9 percent sales growth helped by double-digit growth in emerging markets. Shares climbed 75p to hit an all-time high of 2526p.
Bottom of the benchmark pile was holiday company Tui Travel: the shares plummeted 13.8p to 278.30p -- a 4.8 percent decline -- after its majority-shareholding German parent company backtracked on plans to buy up the UK group. The share price dip eclipsed last Wednesday's 3.9 percent jump when the potential deal was first announced.
Housebuilders slumped to the bottom of the mid-tier index after analysts at JPMorgan downgraded a clutch of builders including Bovis Homes, down 19.5p to 611.25p, and Redrow, down 7.4p to 185.05p.
Over on the small-cap index Tom Haughey, the boss of steel group Severfield-Rowen has quit after cost overruns at its Cheesegrater skyscraper project hurt results. The shares crashed 41.4p to 78.5p.
Kleeneze owner -- the home shopping and education supplies retailer Findel -- said it is on track with its turnaround plan and reported a 10.2 percent increase in third-quarter sales but the shares edged down 0.67p to 8.48p.
(c)2013 London Evening Standard
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