Unilever shares sour on legal headquarters announcement
The FTSE 100 Index closed up 7.07 points to 7,139.76.
Investors checked out of Unilever on Thursday after the consumer goods giant ended speculation over its legal headquarters by picking Rotterdam over London.
Shares in the Marmite to Pot Noodle maker were 1% lower, down 64.5p to 3,756p, with the group revealing plans to “simplify” from two legal entities into a single one incorporated in the Netherlands.
While Unilever said it would continue to be listed in London, Amsterdam and New York, some analysts believe the group could lose its place on the FTSE.
Elsewhere, the FTSE 100 Index pushed back into positive territory, rebounding from Wednesday’s fall to eke out a 7.07 rise to 7,139.76.
Fiona Cincotta, City Index’s senior market analyst, said: “After a strong start, the FTSE drifted lower for most of the morning, briefly dipping into negative territory before strong gains on Wall Street lifted the UK index back towards earlier highs.”
Across Europe, Germany’s Dax climbed 0.9% and the Cac 40 in France was 0.7% higher.
On the currency markets, the pound was edging closer to the $1.40 mark, but a firming of the US dollar saw sterling slip 0.1% to $1.395.
Against the euro, the pound was up 0.3% to 1.132 euro.
The price of oil was 0.4% ahead at $65.15 a barrel despite traders expressing concern over a hit to Brent crude if US trade tariffs on imported steel and aluminium escalate into a full blown trade war.
In UK stocks, Hammerson was the top-flight’s biggest faller after Credit Suisse slashed the property investor’s rating from outperform to neutral.
The move sent shares tumbling 4% lower, or 22.2p to 434.4p.
On the second tier, a profit warning from Imperial Leather-maker PZ Cussons prompted a backlash from shareholders, sending the firm crashing 16%.
Shares dropped 45p to 231.8p, as consumer confidence dives in the UK and the firm faces tough trading in Nigeria.
Earlier this year, the group said that Brexit-fuelled inflation was encouraging shoppers to swap brand name soaps for discounted rivals.
On Thursday, PZ Cussons warned that this will result in full-year profit falling “short of expectations”, with the board pencilling in a range between £80 million to £85 million.
PZ Cussons, which also owns St Tropez sun tan lotion and Original Source shower gel, is now embarking on a number of initiatives to get back on track.
These include a reassessment of its operating model to further reduce overheads, a review of product costs with a focus on areas such as packaging reduction and a review of its milk business in Nigeria with an objective of returning it to profitability.
Shares in construction group Kier also took a knock after the firm posted falling profits.
The company saw pre-tax profit drop 6% to £33.7 million in the six months to December 31, while revenue rose 1% to £2 billion.
The group said its construction division was impacted by costs associated with the closure of its Caribbean and Hong Kong businesses, which totalled £7.7 million, and project delays. Shares were down 40p to 1,038p.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Standard Life Aberdeen up 6.7p to 372.6p, Tesco up 3.7p to 214p, Smiths Group up 27.5p to 1,597.5p, Hargreaves Lansdown up 29p to 1,729p.
The biggest fallers were Hammerson down 22.2p to 434.4p, Micro Focus International down 52p to 1,921.5p, Randgold Resources down 130p to 5,958p, Fresnillo down 23.5p to 1,192.5p.