Market Report: Spending cutbacks have Ashtead investors worried

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The City continued to chip away at tool-hire firm Ashtead, whose plans to cut spending sent shivers down investors’ spines.

The group, one of the most-shorted stocks on the FTSE 100, splashed out £932 million in the nine months ended January, but plans to spend no more than £1 billion in total next year, wary of the outlook for its Sunbelt division in the US, where it makes the bulk of sales.

The move worried investors that it won’t keep up its high revenue and profit growth and the shares slumped 122.5p, or 13%, to 801.5p.

Pre-tax profits for the nine-month period jumped 19% to £465.4 million on revenues of £1.88 billion, also up 19%.

On a jam-packed day for corporate results, Ashtead’s dive was the heaviest on the blue-chip index, but in terms of influence, Barclays’ 10% tumble, down 17.2p to 154.85p, stole the show.

But the pair’s demise did not stop the FTSE 100 from rising 21.67 points to 6118.76, boosted by the mining sector.

Severn Trent, which was up 4p at 2140p, and United Utilities, 3p firmer at 928.5p, revealed a joint venture to merge their non-household water and wastewater retail businesses before the sector is opened up to competition next year.

Rotork stormed to the top of the FTSE 250 leaderboard, 24.8p higher to 184.3p, as the under-pressure valve maker’s annual results provided no real shocks for investors as revenues and profits fell as analysts had expected., whose “Epic Strut” commercial was the most-complained about ad on TV last year, crept up 1p to 339.2p as the price-comparison site’s full-year numbers were slightly ahead of forecasts, while serviced-office group Regus improved 5.2p at 294.7p as annual, pre-tax profits soared 67% to £145.7 million.


Troubled Toronto-based stockbroker Canaccord Genuity — which last month revealed the worst quarterly loss in its history, another round of jobs cuts and suspended the dividend — said it planned to delist from the LSE to save costs. The shares fell 25p to 170p.

Over on AIM, Brits snapping up Marc Jacobs and Christian Louboutin goods on the cheap helped nudge up sales at MySale, the “flash-sale” etailer backed by retail tycoons Mike Ashley and Philip Green.

First-half revenues grew just 4% to A$128.2 million (£65.5 million), but the company, which generates most of its sales from Australia, New Zealand and South-east Asia, trimmed pre-tax losses to A$500,000, lifting the shares 0.55p to 44.55p.

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March 2, 2016 |
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