MARKET REPORT: Investors back British pharma to beat Covid

In the battle to beat Covid-19, London-listed companies both large and small have punched well above their weight.

Updates from a cluster of leading medical and biotechnology groups yesterday proved they are still at the forefront of the fight. 

FTSE100 pharmaceuticals giant Astrazeneca announced it had signed a contract with the European Commission to supply at least 300m doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine. 

The vaccine, which is being trialled in partnership with Oxford University, is the first contract the EU has signed and also includes the option to buy 100m extra doses to be distributed among the 27 member nations. Despite the good news, Astrazeneca shares fell 2.1 per cent, or 182p, to 8417p. 

Also on the vaccine front, biotech tiddler Scancell surged 8.2 per cent, or 0.6p, to 7.95p after it clinched around £2m of funding from Innovate UK. This will allow a consortium including AIM-listed Scancell to start a phase-1 trial in 2021 for its vaccine candidate, which it hopes would prompt the body’s immune system to fight back against the virus and create long-term immunity. 

And junior market-listed Novacyt, which was an early mover to create a Covid-19 test, has launched a new test that will help differentiate between the coronavirus and flu. It reckons this will be a big earner later this year when the winter cold and flu season will overlap with coronavirus – triggering a host of problems not just for individuals but for public health authorities who will need to be able to track new outbreaks. Investors agreed, with shares in the group rising 7.8 per cent, or 22.5p, to 310p last night. This brings the rise in its share price so far this year to a tidy 2,285 per cent. 

The FTSE 100 closed in the red after the chair of the US Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, pledged to keep a raft of stimulus measures in place for as long as it takes for employment and the economy to recover. The blue-chip index finished down 0.75 per cent, or 45.61 points, taking it just below the psychologically important 6000- point mark at 5999.99. 

Gambling behemoth Flutter Entertainment fell 0.8 per cent, or 105p, to 12475p despite doing better than expected following the mass closure of sporting events and games. A drop in sports betting revenues in the UK and Ireland was more than offset by people playing its online poker and gambling games, though total profits sank 70 per cent to £24m on the back of its mega-merger with Canadian group Stars. 

The chief risk officer at the London Stock Exchange Group flogged almost £1m worth of stock in the bourse-owner. Diane Cote sold 11,000 shares for 8,911p apiece, a stock market filing showed. Shares in the blue-chip group ended lower by 0.1 per cent, or 12p, at 8904p. 

The FTSE 250 managed to stay in the black, rising 0.05 per cent, or 8.46 points, to 17762.03. 

It was helped by a double-digit rally in mortgage lender OneSavings Bank, which rocketed 15.7 per cent, or 40.8p, to 301.4p. OneSavings said it had seen a surge of mortgage applications since the housing market reopened from its lockdown hibernation and that these are now running at about 60 per cent of pre-lockdown levels. 

Beleaguered cruise operator Carnival decided to extend the pause in cruises running from Australia from October to December. But the latest pushback didn’t hamper trading, with bargain hunters swooping in and sending shares up 5.2 per cent, or 50p, to 1019p by the close. 

And small-cap sofa seller DFS (up 1.2 per cent, or 2p, to 165p) struck a deal to sell upmarket brand The Sofa Workshop to rival Halo Furnishings in a £300,000 deal.

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