The City took a look at the demand for heavies, bouncers and security guards yesterday and the conclusion is: it's tough. Scribblers at Goldman Sachs think "poor industry dynamics in security end-markets" is bad news for the security specialist G4S.
Goldman is so concerned about the outlook for the business ahead of its interim results at the end of August that it rates the group a sell. Its analysts are concerned about margin pressures and think there are risks that its 2014 margin estimate could be down by 15 basis points year on year.
Not only are margins a concern across the business, but Goldman raises questions about its UK & Ireland Cash Solutions business, the arm that transfers money between shops and offices securely. It thinks that there are ongoing price competitive pressures and adjusted its earnings forecasts again.
G4S has already had a difficult year after its Olympic scandal, while its chief executive, Nick Buckles, stepped down and was replaced last month by Ashley Almanza, who hopes to reassure investors about the future of the group at the results next month.
Analysts at Panmure Gordon cut their target price for the stock to 240p, and rated it a hold. They think that if the stock falls further there could be a case to buy.
Panmure's Mike Allen and Paul Jones said: "Should the shares fall towards the 215p level on any further bad news/downgrades at the H1 [first-half] results, this would be an interesting level (to invest)… especially if some early self-help gains can be made."
The stock buckled 3.9p to 225.6p, and is down more than 26 per cent since the beginning of May.
The notes from Goldman and Panmure Gordon followed news on Tuesday that G4S could face damages claims after an inquest jury found that the Angolan Jimmy Mubenga had been unlawfully killed on a plane when being restrained by three of the group's guards who intended to deport him.
The FTSE 100 index ended a two-day rally as traders paused for breath, dipping 8.12 points to 6,504.96. Investors sat on their hands ahead of Federal Reserve minutes in the US which were due out after the market closed.
Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at the spread-betting specialist IG, said: "We are still in the midst of the healthy bounce that has allowed markets to recover plenty of lost ground, but it all now hangs on the outcome of the Fed minutes.
"Grudging acceptance is the best way to describe the market's reaction to tapering, but if the minutes come out as hawkish, then it could throw its toys out of the pram once again."
At the other end of the chart, the luxury group Burberry was top of the table on better-than-expected first-quarter sales growth. Although full-year guidance is unchanged, the shares were 69p better at 1,509p on better sales growth in China.
The supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons were boosted by shop watchers at Exane BNP Paribas, who said they are both working on retaining their relevance in a difficult sector. They think Tesco is "looking attractive", and increased their rating to outperform from neutral with a 385p price target.
Morrisons was rated neutral, up from underperform. Tesco was 5.9p better off at 349.5p and Morrisons checked out a 4p rise to 282p.
The bookie William Hill was lifted by a note from Investec analysts, who predicted that its half-year results will represent a "show of strength". They rate it a buy with a 515p price target for shares that fluttered up 1.9p to 465.9p.
The interdealer broker Icap, founded by the chief executive, Michael Spencer, continued to be hit by a slump in trading volumes, and reported overall revenues for the quarter up 2 per cent on last year, but the shares slumped 15.1p to 384.9p.
The satellite operator Avanti Communications was knocked out of orbit when it revealed that sales will be £10m less than expected. The Aim-listed technology group said sales for the year to July had been affected by "timing movements of certain contracts", and its shares crashed 101.75, or 41.23 per cent, to 145p.
The veterinary medicine supplier Animalcare said sales were up 22 per cent for the year to July and 11 per cent ahead of the previous 12 months. It was 4p healthier at 139.5p.
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