Market Report: Standard Life benefits from raised platform

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The Independent Online

On a day the market mopped up the blood from Tuesday's massacre, Standard Life was among the risers after backing from Morgan Stanley.

The broker said Standard Life was in the best position to capitalise on the new trend towards "platform" – or unbundled – insurance services in the UK. It expects a material re-rating of the stock with a bull case of a potential 56 per cent upside. The insurer, which said it was reorganising its private equity operations into a new vehicle, rose 6p to 290.5p.

Top of the leaderboard was Whitbread, which leapt 3.5 per cent to 1,612p after a bullish trading update. The leisure and hotels chain is set to launch a share buyback programme of up to 10 per cent, worth about £300m. The group's share price has slipped as talk of a takeover has receded and analysts are calling the stock cheap.

Another to benefit from good financial results was Segro. The company, previously called Slough Estates, closed up nearly 2 per cent at 524p as its interims rose, based on a solid performance in continental Europe.

The FTSE 100 opened down a further 45 points after Tuesday's bloodbath. The fall was caused by a 250-point overnight slump on the Dow as house prices fell and consumer confidence wavered. But sentiment in London rebounded as nerves settled on a positive opening in New York, and the blue-chip index finished up 30 points at 6,132.2.

Persimmon was among the losers, off 9p at 1,155p, after going ex-dividend, while Rexam was bottom of the pile, closing 1.4 per cent lower at 511p.

Financial services companies were back after being smashed the previous day, with Barclays enjoying a welcome relief rally. The bank eased fears about the size of losses it faced over the special investment vehicles, rising 1.9 per cent to finish at 600p on the nose.

Retail companies have not had the best of summers, but Next received some welcome support from JP Morgan. This summer, apparel stores were crushed by interest rates, the wet weather and apparently what the broker called a "dearth of key fashion trends". It said Next's shares were now reasonably priced, and upgraded them to "overweight". The analyst added he believed the company had reached its nadir in terms of like-for-like sales growth. "It also looks compellingly valued on a cash-returns basis." The stock closed up 1.9 per cent at 1,904p.

Debenhams didn't receive quite such a ringing endorsement – the broker said structural issues were likely to overwhelm a more "price-competitive stance" – but still managed to close the day in the black.

Elsewhere on the second line, Partygaming was aces high as its interim announcement beat broker expectations. The gaming group rocketed 23.1 per cent to 28p after reporting first-half revenue had risen by almost half. Its chief executive Mitch Garber said the group expects to announce over the next few months "a number of business alliances with leading companies around the world".

There was a buzz around Carphone Warehouse in the morning, and although it didn't amount to much it helped the stock to rally 3.25p to 335.5p.

Brokers were split over G4S, which boosted pre-tax profit by 15.9 per cent. Deutsche Bank and Cazenove said the strong numbers were expected, and maintained a positive outlook. Caz added that the business could be split into three trading units. Citigroup, however, reiterated a "sell" rating, arguing the company was overvalued compared with the rest of the sector. UBS added that cash flow was quite weak. The market didn't know how to react, and the stock closed up 0.25p at 199.5p.

Domestic & General was the second worst performer on the FTSE 250 after Homeserve walked away from merger talks. It closed down 3.7 per cent at 1,187p, compounding a month-long slide from a peak of 1,475p. Homeserve investors were fully behind the move, as the stock leapt 24p, although it eased to close 8p up at 1,654p.

Outside the FTSE 350, E mpyrean Energy leapt by a quarter after a drilling update at its Sugarloaf site in Texas. The gas company closed at 49p after the much-anticipated announcement. Traders added they were also expecting an update from Black Rock in the near future. The miner has bounced over the past month, but was unchanged yesterday.

The tiddler Qonectis finished the top small-cap riser, up 55 per cent to 0.77p. The group, which develops technology to analyse data relating to water leakage, said it had managed to grow revenues "substantially".

Scisys wasn't so lucky after it warned its full-year profits would be hit because of delayed contracts. It closed down 11.3 per cent at 60.75p.

Following a one-for one bonus share issue, the property and regeneration group Sutton Harbour closed at 155p.

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