FTSE 100 ends lower as Premier Inn firm Whitbread dives

The FTSE 100 ended in negative territory on Tuesday, dragged down by a poor showing from hotels group Whitbread.

London’s top flight index closed the day down 36.89 points, or 0.5%, at 7,403.77.

Whitbread closed at the foot of the index, the firm’s shares shedding 294p, or 6%, to close at 4,460p as investors took a dim view of the firm’s annual figures.

The Premier Inn owner posted a near-40% plunge in profits and warned of a slowdown in holidaymaker demand for hotel rooms amid Brexit uncertainty.

The hotel company said UK like-for-like accommodation sales fell 0.6% in the year to February 28 as it was affected by a decline in demand, particularly in the final three months.

It added there had been a further weakening in demand since the start of its new financial year, particularly in the regions, where it has a large presence.

In its first set of full-year figures since last year’s £3 billion sale of Costa Coffee to Coca-Cola, Whitbread said pre-tax profits tumbled 39% to £260 million with the boost from the deal stripped out.

Elsewhere on the blue chip index, BP shares closed higher even as the energy giant saw profits slide in the first quarter after it was hammered by falling oil and gas prices.

The oil major said replacement cost profit – the market’s preferred measure – fell to 2.1 billion US dollars (£1.6 billion) in the first quarter, dropping 12% from 2.4 billion US dollars (£1.9 billion) in the same period last year.

But the profits were slightly ahead of analyst forecasts due to strong trading across both oil and gas, sending shares 6.5p higher to 559p.

In currency, sterling was trading 0.75% higher versus the US dollar at 1.302 at the London market close.

The pound was also 0.6% up on the euro at 1.162.

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx, said: “Reports of ‘a new optimism about a change in tone’ regarding the cross-party Brexit talks may be boosting the currency – though there are those, like Jeremy Hunt, who appear keen to throw a spanner in the works – as well as the fact it has, all told, had a terrible April.”

Traders will be monitoring with interest the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting of the Labour Party National Executive Committee, with all eyes on whether the part will shift its stance on a second Brexit referendum.

Large numbers of Labour MPs and candidates and leaders of major unions have been calling for the party to back a referendum on any Brexit deal.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX was 0.1% higher and France’s CAC 40 was up 0.01%.

A barrel of Brent crude was changing hands for 72.1 US dollars, an increase of 0.4%.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Standard Chartered up 30.6p at 700p, MicroFocus up 66.4p at 1,937.8p, Hikma up 38.5p at 1,765.5p and Halma up 24.5p at 1,799.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Whitbread down 294p at 4,460p, Smurfit Kappa down 100p at 2,245p, DS Smith down 15.7p at 357p and NMC Health down 81p at 2,822p.

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