Market Report: Good news for Ashtead


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The Independent Online

Money flowing into US roads and bridges is good news for Ashtead.

The equipment hire specialist, which rents out diggers, cranes and the like, beat City expectations with half-year numbers yesterday and told suits to raise their expectations for full-year performance too.

Profit jumped over 30 per cent, with Ashtead putting the gain down to the revival in the US construction industry, where business is going gangbusters. Jefferies also noted approvingly that, unlike rivals, rentals to the energy industry make up less than 10 per cent of Ashtead’s business, insulating it from the impact of falling oil prices.The solid performance sent Ashtead soaring to a record close, up 98p at 1175p.

After Tuesday’s steep fall, the Footsie flatlined yesterday, giving up 29.43 points to 6500.04. Oil continued to dominate the agenda, sweeping 21.19 points off the index. Deutsche Bank warned that whilst the bulk of damage may already be done, “the early months of 2015 feel unlikely to prove especially kind to the sector.”

No pain, no gain – software group Micro Focus’ $2.5bn acquisition of Attachmate Group is set to be “transformational”, management reiterated yesterday. But for now it has led to a dip in half-year profits and revenue as the company handles the integration. Micro Focus shed 80p to 1051p.

Sportech jumped 4.5p to 54.5p as City financier Richard Griffiths raised his stake in the betting pool and online gambling company. Griffiths has also been stake building in Cupid, down 0.5p at 18p, and Blinkx, flat at 25.25p.

Hochschild Mining revealed it is cutting non-executive director pay by 30 per cent in response to falling silver and gold prices. Hochschild, flat at 88p, also cut executive pay last July.

Irish miner Kenmare Resources moved to stem its recent share price fall by reassuring investors that it is engaged in “constructive discussions” with its lenders. The Mozambique-focused miner must deliver a budget for 2015 to lenders by the end of January to prove that it will not default. Shares have tumbled over 75 per cent since its summer peak amid fears this will prove a stretch.