UK share prices watch: AstraZeneca in demand
AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) is among this Thursday’s UK share prices to watch, soaring to the top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard after lifting its full-year sales guidance. Vodafone (LON:VOD) meanwhile is set to be in focus tomorrow, with investors eyeing the telco’s quarterly update.
AstraZeneca shines on Thursday
AstraZeneca is the top FTSE 100 performer in percentage terms this Thursday as it lifted its full-year sales guidance, having benefitted from strong performance of its oncology treatments. The FTSE 100 group now expects that its full-year product sales will increase by a low double-digit percentage, compared with the company’s prior guidance for a high single-digit percentage increase.
Investors have reacted positively to the update with the Anglo-Swedish group having bet on several key therapy areas, including oncology, as it looks to counter a decline in sales of its older blockbuster treatments which have been hit by competition from cheaper generics. AstraZeneca’s share price is up by 5.60 percent in early afternoon trade, as compared with about a 0.2-percent gain in the benchmark FTSE 100 index.
The Sage Group (LON:SGE) has also been among today’s UK share prices to watch, taking a heavy hit, even as the company posted a gain in organic total revenue for the nine months ended June 30. The blue-chip software specialist, however, cautioned that it expects its organic operating profit margin to be at the lower end of its guided range of between 23 percent and 25 percent.
“Sage was priced for upgrades going into today’s update which have not materialised due to declining legacy business,” said Shore Capital analyst Martin O’Sullivan, as quoted by Proactive Investors. The software company’s shares have given up more than 12 percent.
Unilever (LON:ULVR) is also in focus today as it revealed a fall in first-half turnover and posted weaker-than-expected underlying sales growth for the first half of the year. The consumer goods giant also pointed to mixed growth in its markets, with Europe and North America held back by the impact of weather on ice cream sales.
“Unilever themselves describe their markets as mixed, and most investors will look at these numbers as something of a curate’s egg,” said Steve Clayton, manager of the HL Select funds, which holds a position in Unilever, as quoted by Reuters. The Anglo-Dutch group’s shares are trading about 1.2 percent in the red.
Diageo (LON:DGE) is yet another blue-chip to suffer on the back of poorly-received results today, having given up 1.6 percent in early afternoon this Thursday. The Johnny Walker and Smirnoff maker posted a 5.8-percent rise in reported net sales, and a nine-percent gain in organic operating profit, ahead of top-line organic growth.
“These figures from Diageo again demonstrated the strength of its global business and its ability to generate cash, which can be invested or returned to shareholders,” Ian Forrest, an investment research analyst at The Share Centre, commented, as quoted by Proactive Investors. “The shares dropped back slightly in early trading, but that is probably just some profit-taking given that they’ve outperformed the market over the past year.”
Elsewhere in the London market, defence and aerospace supplier Cobham (LON:COB) has rallied 35 percent after the company agreed to be acquired by Advent International for £4 billion in cash.
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UK share prices to watch tomorrow
Vodafone is scheduled to update investors on its first-quarter tomorrow, having posted a hefty loss in the previous financial year. IG’s financial writer Aaran Fronda commented in a note that investors will be hoping that the telecoms provider will be able to remain on track to hit its targets for the new financial year and not be forced to downgrade in the wake of a disappointing set of results.
The company is targeting an adjusted EBTDA of between €13.8 billion and €14.2 billion for the full-year 2020, implying low single digit organic growth, with free cash flow of at least €5.4 billion. Vodafone’s results will come after the European Commission okayed the company’s deal with Liberty Global.
Pearson (LON:PSON) will also be among tomorrow’s notable UK share prices. The company is set to post its half-year results after saying in April that its underlying revenue had climbed two percent in the first quarter of the year and that the company remained on track to deliver annualised cost savings in excess of £330 million exiting the current year. The blue-chip publisher further said that it expects to deliver adjusted operating profit of between £590 million and £640 million.