March 2: Britvic loses its fizz
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Britvic shares are down 23 per cent after the group said the soft drinks market was the most difficult it had ever experienced. The company only floated in December, so we shall be trawling back through the prospectus to see what it said then about the market. At 210p, the stock is now below its 230p float price. Britvic – whose brands include 7-Up, R Whites and Tango – seems to be suffering from consumers’ new-found thirst for healthy drinks. But it seems unlikely that the market has changed so dramatically since December. What is it about Gerald Corbett? Not only is he Britvic chairman; he also ran Railtrack and is chairman at Woolworth. Britvic’s news is very reminiscent of PartyGaming , which floated amid fanfare only to say a couple of months later that the market had suddenly changed.
Standard Chartered has turned in a strong set of full-year figures, helped by the inclusion of last year’s acquisition in South Korea. The stock, which is up more than 50 per cent since the rights issue to fund the acquisition in January last year, is up another 3½ per cent today. The emerging markets bank has written off its entire investment in Zimbabwe, although it is not leaving the country.
Hanson, the last sizeable British building materials group, is making a couple of acquisitions in the US – proof, perhaps, that not all British managements are inert, as some have grumbled while they watched foreigners buying British companies. Hanson is spending £415m on two companies that produce sand, gravel and slag.
Trinity Mirror has presented a dreadful picture of the advertising market alongside slightly better full-year profits. Advertising revenues fell 13.5 per cent in the first two months of 2006 after a 7 per cent fall in regional ad sales in the second half of last year and a 16 per cent drop at the national newspapers. We might do quite a bit on this.
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