Market Report: Hopes of disposals push John Wood stock higher

The energy services provider John Wood was among the major gainers yesterday as speculation spread that the potential disposal of its well support division could prompt the company into further merger and acquisition (M&A) activity or a return of cash to shareholders.

As Wood informed the market that it was "evaluating the possible sale" of the unit, analysts were split over how much it could fetch, with Halliburton and GE among those talked about as possible buyers.

Pointing out that the division contributed over a third of the group's total revenue in 2009, Evolution Securities' Keith Morris said that it could be sold for over $1bn, while Royal Bank of Scotland's Phil Lindsay suggested a "realistic range" was between $1.5bn (£925m) and $2bn.

If the sale did go ahead, Mr Lindsay noted it would probably move the group "into a net cash position" and that it was therefore "likely to consider further M&A to plug holes in its geographic coverage in [its engineering and production facilities division] and/or return cash to shareholders".

Meanwhile, Mr Morris said a sale would wipe out the debt from Wood's $955m deal to buy PSN, which had raised fears of a potential rights issue.

With Wood 12p stronger at 579.5p, the analyst also asked if this could be "a first move which ultimately could see [it] disposing of its engineering business to Amec?"

Overall, the FTSE 100 fell back 16.73 points to 5,983.34 following two strong sessions, with market voices noting that investors appeared to be holding back ahead of today's key US non-farm payroll data.

There were plenty of blue-chip group revealing updates yesterday, including Royal Dutch Shell, and the energy giant slipped back 67.5p to 2,200p as its net profit for the fourth-quarter failed to match expectations. As a result BP and BG were also suffering, down 10.05p to 477.95p and 28p to 1,434.5p respectively.

GlaxoSmithKline advanced 40.5p to 1,168p after confirming in its final results that it was resuming its share buyback programme. The drug maker had already signalled that its profits for the fourth quarter would be hammered by legal charges totalling £2.2bn.

At the start of the day Unilever was moving ahead following its latest figures, but it did not take long for the consumer goods manufacturer to start heading the other way, and it closed 20p weaker at 1,837p.

Also releasing numbers were BT, whose strong earnings saw it rise 6.4p to 184.9p, and Vodafone, 0.1p lower at 177p, as it increased its profit forecast.

The telecommunications group also waded into the ongoing political uncertainty in Egypt, accusing the country's authorities of sending pro-government SMS messages via the company's network. Vodafone also said its customers in the country were still not able to send texts, but that they could now use their phones to make calls and access the internet.

Meanwhile, Tui Travel – which has lost over 10 per cent of its share price in the last week – announced that the turmoil in Egypt, as well as Tunisia, could hit the company by as muchas £30m. The tour operator moved down 4p to 243p as it also revealed that its year-on-year underlying operating loss for the first-quarter hadnarrowed.

The news that its shareholders had chosen Edward Bramson – the founder of the activist investor Sherborne – as its new chairman led F&C Asset Management to shoot up the leaderboard, finishing 3.25p higher at 88.75p. Mr Bramson's attempt to replace Nick MacAndrew was supported by more than 70 per cent of those attending the extraordinary general meeting, proposed by Sherborne, which currently owns an 18 per cent stake in F&C.

Ashtead was the top mover on the FTSE 250, as Singer Capital Markets highlighted an update from United Rentals, the world's largest rental company. The broker's analyst Andy Murphy said that the US group's figures "support our above consensus forecasts for Ashtead", which climbed 8p to 185p.

"Rates and utilisation are rising strongly," added Mr Murphy, "and are setting new records which imply better profitability in the sector than during the last cycle."

At the other end, Hansen Transmission dropped 3p to 53.5p, as UBS downgraded its advice on the group to "sell" following last week's interim management statement.

Among the small-caps, Eaga enjoyed a surge of 13.25p to 94.4p after the support services company revealed that it had been approached by an unnamed group, with speculation suggesting it could be a private equity firm.

On the Alternative Investment Market there was a massive move for Plastics Capital. The manufacturer was lifted 12.5p to 83p following its announcement that it had won its first Chinese customer since opening a sales office in Shanghai.

A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Finance Manager - Bank - Leeds - £300/day

£250 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Finance Manager - Accountant - Bank...

Compliance Officer - CF10, CF11, Compliance Oversight, AML, FX

£100000 - £120000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading fi...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn