Market Report: GSK takes a double dose of unpleasant medicine


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The Independent Online

Fears of trouble brewing Down Under, as well as disappointing trial results from one of its drugs, left GlaxoSmithKline on its sickbed last night. Britain's largest drugs maker was driven back 16p to 1,424p amid warnings from the City over evidence of a slowdown in Australia.

Saying recent results from, among others, consumer goods makers Associated British Foods and PZ Cussons have produced signs trading in the country is deteriorating, Panmure Gordon announced it was "increasingly concerned by consumer slow-down".

Analysts from the broker – who said they were taking the "opportunity to advocate taking profits" – pointed out the consumer side of GSK now provides almost 20 per cent of revenues and added that "if the market collapses [in Australia], this will have a significant impact on profits".

GSK was faced with another bitter pill to swallow after its Tykerb drug failed to perform as hoped in clinical trials with women suffering from early-stage breast cancer. As a result, Deutsche Bank said the chances of Tykerb being used in treatment for breast cancer after initial surgery or chemotherapy was "very unlikely", making current sales expectations"very optimistic".

It was a poor session for the defensives in general, with SAB Miller another in the red. The Grolsch owner slipped 16p to 2,184p despite UBS's Renier Swanepoel reiterating the brewer's "neutral" rating and saying it was "priced to perfection".

Although there was a consensus in the Square Mile that the eurozone summit in Brussels had not produced an instant solution to the region's woes, the FTSE 100 still managed to climb 45.44 points to 5,529.21. Strong consumer confidence data from the US helped, as did reports claiming China's central bank may create a $300bn vehicle to invest in both Europe and the States.

Despite Moody's deciding to downgrade its credit ratings on three French banks, their UK peers were all charging ahead, with some dealers suggesting they were cheered by David Cameron's strict stance against a financial transaction tax.

Lloyds, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland ended up taking the three top places on the blue-chip leaderboard, powering up 1.64p to 26.72p, 9.8p to 190.23p and 1.07p to 21.99p respectively

Lloyds' move came in the wake of reports its boss Antonio Horta-Osorio will have to reapply for his job if he wants to return from sick leave, and one company hoping the issue is sorted out soon – according to Panmure Gordon's Barrie Cornes – is St James's Place.

Lloyds has a 60 per cent stake in the mid-tier financial adviser, which it has seemingly been poised to sell forever. The lack of a permanent chief executive will delay the disposal even further, claimed the analyst, who argued that once completed St James's share price would "bounce".

Down on the FTSE 250,takeover talk made a return around Hays after Shore Capital's David O'Brien said it could attract a bidder. The recruiter has dropped nearly 14 per cent in December following dismal updates from its rivals SThree and Michael Page, and the analyst said that "should the share price not recover in due course there is a possibility that predators may well look to take advantage".

However, given Mr O'Brien also slashed his earnings estimates, the comments did not stop Hays creeping down 0.1p to 63.2p.

Premier Foods continued to rise in the wake of its announcement on Thursday that the owner of Mr Kipling has agreed to sell its Brookes Avana chilled foods unit to 2 Sisters Food.

It climbed a further 0.15p to 5.88p after Investec's Martin Deboo praised the deal as "a positive step on [the] path to recovery" for Premier, which is among the stocks moving to the small-cap index at the end of next week as part of the latest indices reshuffle.

It was a good day for punters' favourite Desire Petroleum, which powered up 10.34 per cent to 24p on the Alternative Investment Market. Traders noted its peer Rockhopper, which was 12p stronger at 251p, is expected to release drilling results soon from the field off the Falkland Islands in which Desire has a large stake.

Elsewhere among the explorers, oil and gas tiddler Max Petroleum slipped back 1p to 12.5p after admitting it had been unable to find "viable reservoirs" from further drilling of its ASK-2 well in Kazakhstan.

Having seen its share price drop more than 8 per cent in under three months, Trading Emissions decided enough was enough and released a statement in an attempt to stem the losses.

It seemed to work, with the carbon trading group's announcement that while the value of its assets had fallen by over a third, it still had the cash to fulfil its obligations, prompting it to jump up 3.75p – or 20.27 per cent – to 22.25p.

FTSE 100 Risers

Kazakhmys 943p (up 23.5p, 2.56 per cent)

Heavyweight copper miner manages to be ahead by the bell as it ends a three-day losing streak during which its share price moved back 5 per cent.

Aviva 321.3p (up 7.1p, 2.26 per cent)

Insurer is knocked down in early trading in the wake of Exane BNP Paribas downgrading its recommendation to "neutral", but mounts a recovery.

FTSE 100 Fallers

Essar Energy 222.9p (down 3.2p, 1.42 per cent)

Indian oil and power company's losing streak is stretched to a fourth session, with its share price now having lost more than 10 per cent over the run.

IMI 731p (down 6p, 0.81 per cent)

Engineering group still falling after being hit on Thursday last week by Credit Suisse picking it out as one of the stocks to avoid thanks to its exposure to Europe.

FTSE 250 Risers

Bellway 749p (up 20.5p, 2.81 per cent)

Housebuilder reveals it has seen an increase in sales over the past two months, with 104 per week during the last nine weeks compared with 85 over the previous nine.

PZ Cussons 313.3p (up 4.3p, 1.39 per cent)

Imperial Leather manufacturer manages a partial rebound after suffering a large fall on Thursday last week when it announced a profits warning.

FTSE 250 Fallers

SuperGroup 501p (down 12p, 2.32 per cent)

Clothing retail chain finishes in the red for the fourth consecutive trading session as it prepares to release its half-year results next Wednesday.

Ashtead 206.5p (down 5.2p, 2.46 per cent)

Hire group eases back after impressing market with its interim figures yesterday, as UBS increases its price target to 270p from 240p.