Drinks giant Diageo continued its much-needed and welcome recovery amid reports it has kicked off the search for a chairman.
Shares in the group behind Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff rose 1.1 per cent, or 31.5p, to 2936.5p, taking its gains in little over a week to around 12 per cent.
The rally will come as a boost for boss Debra Crew who has been under the cosh since she succeeded Sir Ivan Menezes last summer.
The latest share price move came as Sky News reported that Diageo is looking for a successor to chairman Javier Ferran, who has held the job since 2017.
The company is battling a slowdown in sales across much of the world – though not in Britain – and this week reported a fall in revenues and profits for the six months to the end of December.
Raising a glass: Diageo is the group behind Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff
Since posting its rather iffy results on Tuesday, it has been hit by a number of broker downgrades, including from HSBC and Stifel. And while the recent share price rise is welcome, the stock is still down more than 7 per cent since problems at its Latin America and Caribbean arm led to a profit warning in November.
The FTSE 100 inched down 0.09 per cent, or 6.62 points, to 7615.54 and the FTSE 250 gained 0.2 per cent, or 41.48 points, to 19172.64 as bumper tech results in the US and the outlook for interest rates dominated traders’ thoughts.
Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst, at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the ‘flurry of results from across the Pond set a rather positive scene’ for investors.
Airline shares took off after Wizz Air and Dublin-listed Ryanair reported a rise in passenger numbers since the start of the year. Wizz Air surged 10.3 per cent, or 204p, to 2188p after it reported a 14.2 per cent increase in passenger traffic in January to 4.7m. That gave Easyjet a lift (up 2.9 per cent, or 16.4p, to 575.2p) as well as British Airways owner IAG, which gained 0.9 per cent, or 1.3p, to 147p.
Ryanair’s shares rose 1.3 per cent in Ireland after it said it carried 12.2m passengers last month – an increase of 3 per cent on January last year. However, it was not all a bed of roses for the industry, with Ryanair revealing more than 950 flights were cancelled due to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
And both Ryanair and Wizz Air reported a fall in so-called load factor – the proportion of seats filled. Ryanair said its load factor slipped to 89pc – meaning it flew planes with more than one in ten seats empty – while it dropped to 82 per cent at Wizz Air.
But that was not enough to dent enthusiasm among investors while other travel stocks also made gains. Cruise giant Carnival rose 1.2pc, or 14p, to 1178p. Sainsbury’s (up 3 per cent, or 8p, to 275.2p) and Tesco (2.8 per cent, or 7.9p better, at 290.8p) were boosted by analysts at investment bank Morgan Stanley, who upgraded the outlook for UK grocers on expectations they will benefit from falling inflation.
BP fell 1.5 per cent, or 6.95p, to 458.7p after the oil and gas major shut down a refinery in Whiting, Indiana – its biggest in the Midwest – following a power outage.
BP, meanwhile, confirmed Kate Thomson will become its chief financial officer. She held the job on an interim basis following the departure of Bernard Looney.
Looney was forced to quit as chief executive in September over personal relationships with staff.
Finance chief Murray Auchincloss became interim boss and Thomson took over as interim finance chief. Both have been handed the jobs permanently, making Thomson the most powerful woman ever at BP.
Polling company You Gov said sales momentum accelerated in the latest quarter despite a ‘challenging macro-economic environment’. Shares fell 1.7 per cent, or 20p, to 1185p.