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UK growth unexpectedly revised down to 0.2pc; Oil prices tank as Opec extends output cuts by nine months

written by Bella Palmer
Oil prices tank

BT slips on Exane BNP downgrade, as FTSE 100 stagnates near record highs after oil tanks

Investors hung up on telecoms giant BT after Exane BNP Paribas warned that the group’s underlying business is “teetering on the edge”.

The investment  bank downgraded its rating to “underperform” from “neutral” and lowered its price target by 15pc to 260p, prompting shares to skid to a one-week low.

Analyst San Dhillon said: “In our view the market is mispricing BT as they transition from growth to decline.”

BT faces another six months of regulatory uncertainty, as it awaits the final outcome of the Wholesale Local Access review and BT’s fibre consultation, and Exane thinks this is likely to end in “disappointment”.

The FTSE 100 firm is still facing upward pressure on capital expenditure, while the new dividend promise leaves them on the “back foot”, Dhillon added. The bank reckons BT faces an £800m cash shortfall over the next three years to fund a 2pc growing dividend.

Shares, which have fallen by more than 20pc since hitting a 2017 peak in January, slipped 3.5p, or 1.1pc, to 313.4p.

On the broader market, the FTSE 100 stagnated near record highs, closing up 2.81 points, or 0.04pc, to 7,517.71.

Mining giant Anglo American was also among the laggards, down 26.5p to £10.58, after Reuters reported that South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers tabled wage hike demand of between 12.5-16pc from the FTSE 100 firm’s Kumba iron ore division. Anglo has already signalled it intends to sell off its stake in Kumba, but analysts said this could prove difficult as prospective investors will not want to be saddled with a high wage bill. Its peers Rio Tinto fell 10p to £31.66 and BHP Billiton lost 2.5p to £12.10.

Oil majors came under pressure after Brent crude prices tanked by more than 3pc following a widely-anticipated deal by Opec and non-Opec members to extend supply cuts for nine months. BP tumbled 5.4p to 473.1p and Royal Dutch Shell B shares slipped 11p to £21.61.

The oil price slide lifted airline stocks. British Airways owner IAG jumped 9p to 616p, easyJet added 36p to £13.80, and Wizz Air leapt 258p to an all-time high of £22.04.

Separately, budget airline Wizz Air reported a 28pc rise in full-year profits.

Elsewhere, a number of stocks were hurt by trading ex-dividend. DCC dropped 110p to £74.10, Morrisons shed 0.2p to 245.4p, and Whitbread ended the day flat at £42.48.

Diageo dipped 1p to £23.25 hurt by a rating downgrade. Citi lowered its rating to “neutral” as it believes the Smirnoff vodka maker faces a tougher environment.

Meanwhile, bolstered by an upgraded price target, 3i Group rallied to the top of the blue chip index, up 31p to 871.5p. Broker Canaccord Genuity lifted its price target to 975p from 875p on the back of its strong set of full-year results.

Royal Mail advanced 9.1p to 438.1 after Jefferies raised its price target to 350p from 330p, while a raft of supportive broker notes lifted Marks & Spencer 4.1p to 389.3p, a day after it reported a 64pc fall in full-year pre-tax profits.

Away from the blue chips, Petrofac plummeted 184.2p, or 30pc, to 430.8p after it suspended its chief operating officer in response to the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation into Monaco-based Unaoil.

Gold miner Acacia extended its losses for a second successive day, down 39.1p to 265.9p, as BMO cut its rating to “market perform” a day after a Tanzanian government investigation revealed the miner under-reported the presence of gold in its exports.

Forecast beating full-year results propelled Intermediate Capital to a record high of 920p, up 113p on the day, while GVC Holdings rose 17p to 782p on a robust trading update.

Mid-cap carl dealer Inchcape retreated 5.5p to 852.5p despite an upbeat trading statement. It also acquired the distribution rights of BMW in Estonia.

Finally, Aim-listed Flowgroup slipped 8.9pc after it raised over £600,000 through fundraising platform PrimaryBid.


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