Market Report: N Brown looking good, says the City
City analysts were thinking big yesterday – Credit Suisse said plus-size fashion group N Brown is a good investment on the grounds of its expanding business. N Brown owns catalogue and online clothing brands Simply Be and Jacamo, which cater for larger sizes, as well as the lingerie business Figleaves. Credit Suisse's Guillaume Gauville said the "traditional credit-driven mail order business" can be "transformed into a more competitive and profitable apparel company with scalability overseas".
The group has just welcomed a new chief executive, Angela Spindler. Previously chief executive of The Original Factory Shop, she joined last month, and Credit Suisse thinks she and the team will grow its website and market share in the US, and improve margins.
The shares may already look expensive – they are up 45 per cent so far this year – but Mr Gauville reckons the broker sees "a long-term rerating, given the opportunity for the new management team". He raised the target price to 620p, from 455p. The market appeared to agree, and the shares expanded 25p to 563.5p.
Across the wider market, fears about growth slowing in emerging markets and worries that the US will soon begin reducing monetary stimulus kept the benchmark index in the red. The FTSE 100 index lost 62.62 points to 6,390.84.
Glencore Xstrata rose 7.6p to 304.75p to end at the top of the blue-chip table as the commodity giant rebounded after it wrote off nearly $8bn-worth of, mainly Xstrata, assets on Tuesday.
Standard Life got an upgrade from analysts at both Credit Suisse and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Bank of America rated it neutral, up from underperform, and the insurer advanced 1.7p to 344.6p.
On the flip side, Holiday Inn owner InterContinental Hotels Group was bottom of the blue-chips after going ex-dividend, and checked out 133p to 1,845p.
The City failed to take seriously threats by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, of an overhaul at Serco and G4S as shares in the businesses barely wavered. Mr Grayling said the two security groups need "corporate renewal" if they are ever to be considered for Government contracts again.
Both are under investigation for overcharging the Government for security tagging of prisoners but the Square Mile decided they have been punished enough. Serco shed 6.5p to 608p and G4S slipped 1.3p to 244.6p in a falling market.
Analysts at Panmure Gordon looked more favourably on rival Capita as it won one of the Government's electronic tagging contracts after Serco and G4S pulled out. Panmure raised the outsourcer to hold from sell, and upped its price target to 950p. Panmure said Capita's move into justice and defence "could also take the business into new international markets", and is good news for the group. But the City had yet to agree, and the shares lost 8.5p to 988.5p.
For those looking for a flutter, Nomura said it was time to place your bets on the bookies. The broker's Richard Stuber and his team rated William Hill a buy "for dominance in mobile and its Australian strategy", and preferred it to betting group rival Ladbrokes, which they rated reduce because it had "lagged behind materially" on the online front. Ladbrokes dipped 2.5p to 195p while William Hill was steady at 432p.
While eyes were on the drama of the bribery scandals in China unfold in the pharmaceuticals world, some traders decided there will be some takeover activity soon. Shire has long been the target of overseas interest but erroneous rumours circulated yesterday that Swiss drug maker Novartis is eyeing pulmonary drug specialist Vectura. The UK small-cap group added 7.75p to 102.75p.
The TV baking star Mary Berry is a fan of Aga cookers but it was a rise in orders that warmed the shares yesterday. Aga Rangemaster reported flat sales for the first half but analysts at Numis said it had also revealed a "significant improvement through the period with order intake … up 5 per cent in the second quarter". The shares were 10.5p hotter at 114.25p.
On AIM, explorer San Leon Energy said it had completed two additional tests for gas at its Siciny-2 field in Poland, and the shares jetted up 0.15p to 5.95p.
Henderson Global Investors took a 10.31 per cent stake in manufacturer Versarien but the shares were static at 12p.
Mining tiddler Armadale Capital said it has invested in the Mpokoto Gold Project in Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and managed to glister 0.0025p brighter at 0.085p. Rare Earth Minerals reported good results from a drilling programme on the Fleur-El Sauz lithium project, in northern Mexico and the shares were 0.19p better at 0.368p.
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