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FTSE 100 Live: Stocks in the green, AstraZeneca buys Fusion, Unilever splits ice cream

Published 19/03/2024, 08:30
© Reuters. FTSE 100 Live: Stocks in the green, AstraZeneca buys Fusion, Unilever splits ice cream
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Proactive Investors -

  • Blue-chip index adds seven points to 7,729
  • AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) snaps up Fusion Pharma
  • Unilever (LON:ULVR) splits out ice cream business

Pfizer upsizes Haleon share sale

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) has sold more of its stake in Haleon – the joint venture it created in 2019 with GSK (LON:GSK) – than originally planned.

Pfizer was initially tipped to reduce its stake in the joint venture from 32% to 24%, but has opted to reduce it further still to 22.6% via a US-based public share offer.

Haleon (LON:HLN) is buying back £315 million of its own from Pfizer through an off-market transaction.

Haleon’s London-listed shares dipped 0.5% in opening exchanges this morning, while the FTSE 100 was last seen eight points higher at 7,731.

Revenues slip for Wickes

Home improvement retailer Wickes saw statutory revenues slip 0.6% year on year to £1.56 billion in 2023, with basic earnings per share falling 6.3% to 12.6p.

Chief executive David Wood said that profits were “ahead of expectations” thanks to a targeted investment programme and disciplined cost control.

Adjusted operating profit of £73.8 million decreased by 29% year on year the adjusted operating profit margin decreased to 4.7% from 6.7% in 2022, reflecting “the impact of pressure on operating costs due to wage inflation, rising energy prices and other inflationary factors… coinciding with an environment of weaker consumer demand”.

The board recommended a final dividend of 7.3p per share, in line with prior guidance, bringing the full-year dividend for 2023 to 10.9p.

Unilever splits ice cream, sacks 7,500 staff

Unilever PLC is overhauling its operations through the separation of its multibillion-dollar ice cream portfolio while sacking 7,500 firm-wide staff members.

“Ice cream has a very different operating model, and as a result the board has decided that the separation of ice cream best serves the future growth of both ice cream and Unilever,” the British multinational FMCG group said in a statement.

Unilever’s ice cream portfolio includes Wall’s, Ben and Jerry’s, Magnum and other household-name brands. The business turned over approximately €7.9 billion (£6.7 billion) in 2023.

Unilever has also launched a “productivity programme” that will see 7,500 team members lose their jobs. Restructuring costs are expected to be around 1.2% of total turning for the next three years.

AstraZeneca to acquire Fusion Pharma

AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) is acquiring clinical-stage oncology group Fusion Pharmaceuticals in a $2.4 billion (£1.9 billion) deal.

The offer represents a massive 126% premium to Nasdaq-listed Fusion’s Monday closing price.

Fusion “will complement AstraZeneca's leading oncology portfolio with the addition of the Fusion pipeline of RCs, including their most advanced programme, FPI-2265”, AstraZeneca said in a statement.

Susan Galbraith, executive vice president of Oncology R&D at AstraZeneca, commented: "Between thirty and fifty per cent of patients with cancer today receive radiotherapy at some point during treatment, and the acquisition of Fusion furthers our ambition to transform this aspect of care with next-generation radioconjugates.

“Together with Fusion, we have an opportunity to accelerate the development of FPI-2265 as a potential new treatment for prostate cancer, and to harness their innovative actinium-based platform to develop radioconjugates as foundational regimens."

FTSE 100 poised to open lower

The blue-chip index is expected to open 11 points lower at 7,717 when markets open on Tuesday, according to FTSE 100 futures.

It follows a lightly negative trading session on Monday, when the FTSE 100 closed four points lower.

Like yesterday, there will be little to move the dial on the macroeconomic front, barring a 20-year gilt auction in the mid morning.

Markets are instead looking to tomorrow’s year-on-year inflation print, which is forecasted to fall back to 3.5%.

On the company news front, Close Brothers Group and Litigation Capital Management will soon publish their interims, with finals from Trustpilot Group, Wickes and The Pebble Group also on the way.

Read more on Proactive Investors UK

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