Updates from Centrica, Fenner and Unite Students


The FTSE 100 edged 20 points higher on Thursday, to 6,871.2. Smith & Nephew saw the biggest leap, up 3.57% to 1029p while IMI also rose strongly, up 3.01% to 1608p. B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher however took a 4.86% dive after missing profit hopes.

The Dow Jones lifted 65.5 points, rising to 16,698.7 after better numbers from the US labour market.

We start with concern for Centrica. Deutsche Bank analyst Martin Brough yesterday told the Telegraph that Centrica is increasingly looking like a "poor man's BG Group" and "rudderless".

The comments come on the back of British Gas boss Chris Weston quitting (Centrica currently has three top table executive positions now to fill) for power player Aggreko. Brough urges Centrica to look to its British Gas roots for impetus.

"We believe salvation could come from introspection and a resurrection of British Gas as its identity. The unique selling point of the company is not upstream development or US retailing but its British Gas heritage."

Next, polymer and industrial belting company Fenner says US trading conditions have deteriorated and are showing no prospects for imminent improvement.

ECS, its Engineered Conveyor Solutions division, is expected to see significantly weaker results than previously anticipated; an Australian tendering setback is also being factored in by the company.

The combined effect "could be to reduce the Group's underlying profit before tax by 10-15% relative to the prevailing market consensus forecast of £77.6 million," said Fenner this morning in a statement.

Finally, student accommodation player Unite Students says it has agreed to buy and redevelop a 0.77 acre site in Portsmouth which is expected to provide around 830 new beds.

Redevelopment activity will be completed in time for the 2016/17 academic year and returns should be in line with Unite's targets for UK regional development.

"The site...acquired from Portsmouth City Council," says Unite, "is located at Greetham Street, in the heart of the city. It will represent one of the most significant student accommodation developments in Portsmouth in recent years."

Unite Group