Belfast Telegraph

Pearson shares surge helps FTSE 100 end Friday higher

The FTSE 100 ended the day higher, buoyed by surging Pearson shares after the loss-making publishing company announced plans for a fresh cost-cutting drive.

London's blue-chip index closed higher by nearly 0.7%, or 49.33 points, at 7,297.43, topped by Pearson shares, which rose 81.5p to 739.5p.

It comes after Pearson said it would slash costs by £300 million a year by the end of 2019, adding it had started a "strategic review" of its US school publishing business.

It adds to the £650 million of previously-announced savings over the past four years, with the efficiency drive leading to the loss of 4,000 full-time staff across the business last year.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "You've got to hand it to Pearson CEO John Fallon, he doesn't do things by halves.

"Having already disposed of several businesses, the group is trimming the cost base to reflect its reduced size, £300 million of cost savings announced today are equivalent to 12% of the entire 2016 operating cost base - not to be sneezed at."

The group also reported a 6% rise in sales in underlying terms, in line with expectations, and maintained full-year operating profit guidance of £570 million to £630 million.

In currency markets, the pound regained some ground against the US dollar, rising 0.3% to 1.295. Against the euro, sterling was up over 0.1% at 1.178.

Across Europe, the French Cac 40 ended the day higher by 1.1% while the German Dax rose 0.5%.

Brent crude shot up 1.8% to around 49.02 US dollars (£37.83) per barrel as investors took advantage of low prices after the commodity benchmark plunged to five-month lows overnight.

Investors were initially spooked by comments from the Kremlin suggesting no decision had been made on whether Russia would agree to extend oil cuts - which were introduced by Opec and other major oil producing states in January - into the second half of the year.

In UK stocks, IAG shares jumped 31.5p to 603.5p after the British Airways owner said operating profit rose 9.7% to 170 million euro (£144 million) in the three months to March 31, traditionally the weakest quarter of the year for airlines.

InterContinental Hotels fell 59p to 4,120p amid news chief executive Richard Solomons is to step down in June after 17 years at the company. It also reported a 2.7% rise in revenue per room in the first quarter.

Shares in Marks and Spencer group jumped 17.7p to 375.2p after announcing the appointment of former Asda boss Archie Norman as chairman, who will take his position on September 1, replacing Robert Swannell, who will retire after six years in the role.

Debenhams shares rose 0.55p to 51.8p despite news 26,000 customers have had their data compromised after its flowers website was hit by a cyber attack.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Pearson up 81.5p at 739.5p, International Consolidated Airlines up 31.5p at 603.5p, Rolls-Royce Holdings up 41p to 853.5p and Marks and Spencer Group, up 17.7p at 375.2p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were ITV, down 5.4p at 201.8p, Barclays down 5.5p to 206.35p, Admiral Group down 39p to 2,087p and Provident Financial down 58p at 3,194p.

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