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UK Sparks: NMC Health shares suspended

Edison

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Private healthcare company NMC Health has been temporary suspended from trading to ensure ‘smooth operation of the market’, following yesterday’s news that its CEO has been dismissed with an immediate effect and CFO has been granted an extended sick leave. This follows a review, which has identified ‘potential discrepancies and inconsistencies in the company’s bank statements and ledger entries’. As a result, the company does not expect to publish its full-year results before end-April 2020.

Advertising company WPP has released its preliminary full year results, showing revenues less pass-through costs down 1.6% year-on-year to £10.8bn. Headline operating margin declined to 14.4% from 15.2% a year earlier, affected by ‘challenging performance’ in specialist agencies and investments in future growth. Diluted earnings per share at constant currency stood at 49.8p, down 33.8% year-on-year. Notably, in the second half of 2019, the company improved its performance globally and in the US, its largest market.

In 2020, WPP expects like-for-like revenues less pass-through costs and headline operating margin to be stable. This is prior to any impact from coronavirus outbreak. The company has reiterated its 2021 targets, although it highlights there is still much work to do.

Housing company Persimmon has issued its full-year results, posting a 4% year-on-year decline in new homes sold to 15.9k at an average selling price of £215.7k versus £215.6k a year earlier. This translated into a 2.4% drop in revenues to £3.6bn and profit before tax of £1,041m compared with £1,091m in the previous year. The company highlights the performance reflects its current focus on improving quality and service delivery rather than volumes. It adds that customers activity in early 2020 was in line with its expectations and the UK housing market remains ‘resilient’, supported by high consumer confidence amid low interest rate environment, a competitive mortgage market and low unemployment rate. Separately, Persimmon has announced that its CEO, David Jenkinson, has decided to step down from the position after 23 years in the company. David Jenkinson will remain the group’s CEO ‘for as long as the business requires’.

Finally, consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser has disclosed a full year operating loss at £2.0bn compared with a £3.1bn profit in the previous year, affected by a £5bn write down on Mead Johnson Nutrition acquired in 2017. Adjusted for exceptional items, operating profit was £3.4bn. In FY20, the company expects a higher like-for-like revenue growth than in FY19 (0.8%). It anticipates adjusted operating margin to be around 350bps lower than in FY19 (26.2%) due to ‘headwinds’ related to normalizing variable pay assumptions (negative impact of 100bps) as well as recurring investments (150bps).

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