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LONDON MARKET PRE-OPEN: Direct Line Appoints New Finance Head

(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London are seen opening lower on Monday, despite heavyweight ...

Alliance News 16 September, 2019 | 7:42AM
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(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London are seen opening lower on Monday, despite heavyweight oil majors being expected to benefit from a sharp rise in oil prices over the weekend.

In company news, motor and home insurer Direct Line Insurance appointed a new head of finance, hedge fund manager Man Group appointed the former Deusche Bank chief executive as its new chair, and private hospital operator Spire Healthcare reported positive interim earnings.

IG futures indicate the FTSE 100 index is to open 17.26 points lower at 7,350.20. The blue-chip index closed up 22.79 points, or 0.3% at 7,367.46 on Friday.

Direct Line Insurance Group appointed former Royal London deputy chief executive officer Tim Harris as its chief financial officer. Harris will join Direct Line on October 1. He was deputy CEO and finance director of Royal London until July 12 and also has worked at insurer Aviva PLC and accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Man Group said Chair Ian Livingston is to step down from the role on December 31, and will be replaced by Non-Executive Director John Cryan.

Cryan was previously CEO of German lender Deutsche Bank from July 2016 to April 2018.

Spire Healthcare said it delivered a good first-half performance with "clear signs" that its strategic and operational initiatives are bearing fruit.

For the half-year ended June 30, revenue was up 3.4% to GBP491.6 million from GBP475.6 million last year, and the company swung to a pretax profit of GBP9.6 million from a loss GBP2.2 million a year before.

Spire declared an interim dividend of 1.3 pence, unchanged from last year.

"We saw growth in both private insurance and self-pay, with a particularly strong result in private insurance reflecting rising consumer awareness following our marketing campaigns. NHS revenue in the period also outperformed expectations as we worked in close partnership with our local trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups to selectively open new services that respond to their changing needs. We continue to develop our private revenue streams in key areas such as oncology, including working towards a partnership with GenesisCare to create a national end-to-end private cancer treatment pathway," said CEO Justin Ash.

Low-cost housebuilder MJ Gleeson said it delivered another strong performance and was on track to meet its objectives.

For the financial year ended June 30, revenue rose 27% to GBP249.9 million from GBP196.7 million in financial 2018, and pretax profit was up 11% to GBP41.2 million from GBP37.0 million last year.

MJ Gleeson declared a total dividend of 34.5p, up from 32.0p last year.

"Despite the uncertainties caused by Brexit, demand for our homes continues to be extremely strong. Gleeson Homes is well on track to deliver its milestone target of doubling annual completions to 2,000 units by 2022. Led by a strong and highly experienced management team, the division continues to have significant scope for expansion by building low-cost homes for young, first time buyers and low-income families in a market that is underserved by other housebuilders," said Chair Dermot Gleeson.

Elsewhere, Credit Suisse raised Next to Neutral from Underperform, ahead of the clothing retailer's interim results on Thursday.

The price of oil increased significantly following drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities on Saturday.

Brent was quoted at USD66.66 a barrel early Monday, up sharply from USD60.32 late Friday.

The drone attacks on Saturday, which caused fires at two facilities operated by Saudi state oil giant Aramco in the eastern province of Buqyaq, was claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, but the US has blamed Iran for the attacks.

Buqyaq is home to the world's largest oil refining plant, according to Aramco.

US President Donald Trump announced late Sunday that he has approved the release of resources from the US' strategic petroleum reserve "if needed".

In China, the Shanghai Composite is flat, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is down 1.2%. Financial markets in Japan were closed on Monday for the Respect for the Aged Day holiday.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2465 early Monday, firm against USD1.2455 at the London equities close Friday.

The price of new properties on the UK market fell in September, as normally eager buyers hesitate due uncertainty caused by the looming Brexit deadline, according to Rightmove.

The Rightmove Monthly House Price index revealed that the price of newly marketed property fell by an average of 0.2% in September from a year before.

Although underlying housing market fundamentals remain sound, according to Rightmove, Brexit uncertainty has caused some buyers to hesitate.

By Arvind Bhunjun; arvindbhunjun@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2019 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar
MJ Gleeson PLC 802.00 GBX -0.50 -
Man Group PLC 151.80 GBX -0.78 -
Next PLC 6,736.00 GBX -0.41 -
Spire Healthcare Group PLC 126.70 GBX 0.64 -
Direct Line Insurance Group PLC 290.10 GBX 0.45

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