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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 18 June 2014

Cannabis used  in epilepsy trial

An experimental cannabis drug has produced promising results in a small study of children with hard-to-treat epilepsy, sending shares in its British maker GW Pharmaceuticals to an all-time high. The company, which grows cannabis under licence at a secret location in Britain, is developing a range of so-called cannabinoid medicines. It already sells Sativex for spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis across Europe.

Lloyds narrows TSB share range

Lloyds Banking Group has narrowed the range for the first sell-off of shares in TSB. It cut the possible price from 220p to 290p to 240p to 270p, signalling good demand for the offer from both institutional and retail investors. At the lowest point, of 240p, TSB would be valued at £1.3bn or 80 per cent of its total loan book value. 

Crest Nicholson’s market boost

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson said pre-tax profits were 37 per cent stronger than a year earlier at £38.4m in the six months to 30 April. A buoyant market meant sales rates averaged 0.83 per outlet per week, an increase of 8 per cent, while increased production resulted in a 35 per cent increase in volumes to  1,091 units.

World Cup fever hits JD Sports

JD Sports said that booming sales of replica shirts sold to fans in the run-up to the competition in Brazil had distorted sales comparisons so drastically it declined to give a figure in its trading update yesterday.  Executive chairman Peter Cowgill said its outdoor division, which includes Blacks and Millets, is “in recovery mode”.

Ashtead sees records profits

The equipment hire firm Ashtead, which trades as Sunbelt in the United States and A-Plant in the UK, has reported record annual profits of £362m, up 50 per cent at constant exchange rates. It said its strong performance continued in May, with both divisions seeing recovering markets.

Shell to slash Woodside stake

Shell has set out plans to slash its stake in Australian energy giant Woodside, collecting $5bn (£3bn) as part of the oil major’s plan to offload $15bn worth of businesses over two years. Shell is selling 19 per cent of Woodside’s stock, to cut its stake in the company it failed to take over in 2001, to 4.5 per cent.

BG to sell its interest in CATS

BG Group has agreed the sale of its 63 per cent interest in the CATS gas pipeline linking the North Sea and Teesside to Antin Infrastructure Partners for up to £562m. The sale does not impact BG’s rights to capacity in CATS, which pipes 1.7bn cubic metres of gas a day.

New car sales  rise again

Sales of new cars in Europe rose for the ninth month in May, according to new figures, climbing 4.3 per cent. The Association of European Carmakers said 1.13 million cars as volume manufacturers Skoda, Opel and Renault enjoyed strong growth.

Sales lift at Iceland but profits fall

The frozen food chain Iceland, chaired and run by Malcolm Walker, lifted sales by 3 per cent to £2.7 bn last year but profits fell as it spent more on new stores and its online shopping operation. Headline earnings fell 1 per cent to £202m.

Merrill Lynch wins ‘City oscars’

For the second year running Bank of America Merrill Lynch walked away with the best pan-European equity research award at yesterday annual Extel Survey awards. UBS won top place in both trading and execution and equity sales.

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