Market Report: 'Nicer' Ryanair is bad news for rivals

Could it be true? No frills airline Ryanair was yesterday claiming it would be nice and improve customer service. This might be good news for cash-strapped passengers but the City took it as a sign of increased competition for British Airways and easyJet.

Shares in both airlines nosedived after Ryanair's revelations.

Ryanair said it will cut fees and allow an extra bag in the cabin in an attempt to win over new customers. It had been facing a backlash from flyers unwilling to travel with the group that treated customers to excess fines and fees.

Now it is becoming more appealing, other airlines might suffer and easyJet declined 19p to 1,329p while British Airways owner IAG was the worst performer on the blue-chip index, down 14.3p to 349.7p.

The wider market started the day in negative territory until news broke that UK economic output rose 0.8 per cent between July and September. After the official GDP figure was revealed, the Footsie index began to recover but traders were not in the mood for too much optimism and the FTSE 100 finished the day ahead 8.16 points at 6,721.34.

Royal Bank of Scotland was the top riser on reports it will appoint Morgan Stanley to lead the flotation of US subsidiary Citizens, and news that its "bad bank" division is selling its first portfolio of property assets. It banked 11.9p to 368.4p.

There was news after the market closed on Thursday night that IBM will license technology from smartphone microchip designer ARM Holdings, which processed a 22.5p rise to 983p.

Investors also marched into security outfit G4S as the City continued to speculate a break-up of the group is on the cards.The company, best-known for its Olympic security fiasco, has been the target of an activist hedge fund, and is being eyed by private equity. The latest split chatter helped it advance 5.5p to 258.5p.

Analysts at HSBC raised their rating to neutral from sell, saying: "Hopes that value can be unlocked through break-ups and a rejuvenated strategy are likely to buoy G4S's stock through what is perceived as a rump of difficult trading."

They warned that "business fundamentals remain challenging in Europe", which may mean it has a weak 2013 but the share price will be boosted by the potential sales, they added.

The private-equity firm Charterhouse Capital Partners is said to be eyeing its cash-handling arm, and activist hedge fund Cevian Capital has been building a stake to put pressure on the group to increase shareholder value via a sell-off of divisions.

G4S said on Thursday that UK chief executive Richard Morris will leave and be replaced by chief operating officer Eddie Ashton. According to Markit, G4S is one of the most shorted stocks on London's blue-chip index with 10.5 per cent of the shares available to be borrowed out on loan.

Cheesegrater skyscraper developer British Land got an upgrade to buy from UBS analysts amid vague rumours it is being eyed by a Middle Eastern investment group. It put on 5p to 628p.

On the mid-tier, technology group Micro Focus International consolidated shares and lost 4.58p to 809p.

AZ Electronic Materials, which makes chemicals used in computer flat screens and smartphones, tumbled 4.1p to 277.9p amid a range of downgrades after a poor trading update.

Another chemical group, Elementis, reported robust growth at its trading update and was 22.1p better at 266.4p.

Canaccord Genuity initiated coverage of oil services and engineering group Cape with a buy and said: "The problems of the past two years are largely behind the stock." It rose 6.5p to 280p.

South African-focused Petra Diamonds, which in April found a 25.5 carat blue diamond at its Cullinan mine, got an upgrade from analysts at Canaccord Genuity.

Canaccord said the outlook for the miner was good and its production is forecast to pick up. Canaccord said it might allow a dividend payout to start and said that the diamond prices are "expected to remain stable in 2014" and "over the long term the lack of significant new supply and expected buoyant demand growth fuelled by the expanding middle class in China and India should support rough diamond prices." Canaccord rated it a buy with a 163p price target but investors were yet to be dazzled by the opportunity and it finished the day 0.1p weaker at 118.1p.

Iain Ferguson, chairman of haulage group Stobart Group, bought 100,000 shares at an average price of 130p and it was travelled up 2p to 132.5p.

On Aim, Antrim Energy updated on production and maintenance at its North Cormorant platform off Scotland, and it gushed up 0.75p to 7p.

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