MARKET REPORT: Defence spending boom fires up Babcock shares


A string of contracts won helped Babcock rise to the top of the second tier of the stock market.

The defense group was the highest riser in the FTSE 250 yesterday, rising 6.6 percent, or 19.2 pence, to 309.2 pence as it looked to cash in on governments bolstering national security spending during Ukraine’s war.

Babcock, which counts the Ministry of Defense (MoD) as its largest client, has signed contracts with the Polish and Australian armed forces, in addition to a six-year deal with the Royal Navy’s warships.

Stocks boost: Babcock has landed contracts with the Polish and Australian armed forces, alongside a six-year deal with the Royal Navy's warships

Stocks boost: Babcock has landed contracts with the Polish and Australian armed forces, alongside a six-year deal with the Royal Navy’s warships

The group also won 20 contracts for its energy and marine activities.

Babcock’s revenues rose 1pc in the six months to September to £2.14bn.

CEO David Lockwood said: “We operate in a macroeconomic and geopolitical environment that remains volatile.

“We are focused on effectively addressing the challenges facing our business, particularly inflationary pressures, while also ensuring that we maximize the increased opportunities we see in a defense-supportive market environment.”

But the FTSE 250 didn’t feel the benefit of Babcock’s boost, rising just 0.05 percent, or 9.02 points, to 19,422.37.

The FTSE 100, meanwhile, rose 1.03 percent, or 75.99 points, to 7452.84.

Oil stocks rallied a day after crude oil prices hit a 10-month low.

The slump came amid reports that Saudi Arabia and other Opec producers could increase output.

Stock watch – Forterra

Forterra warned it would raise prices for the fourth time within a year.

After increases in January and April, the building products manufacturer increased most of its brick prices by an additional 16.5 percent in October.

As a result, sales increased by 23 percent in the ten months to October.

Now Forterra wants to pass on further costs to customers from the new year.

The company also said Neil Ash will replace Stephen Harrison as CEO in April.

Shares fell 4.6 percent, or 10 pence, to 210 pence.

But the body has since rejected claims that it wanted to boost oil production.

With crude oil on the rise again, BP climbed 6.5 percent, or 29.85p, to 488p, Shell rose 4.8 percent, or 110p, to 2382.5p and North Sea producer Harbor Energy added 7.1 percent, or 21.1p, to 320.6p .

Investors in Petrofac dumped their shares after the rig builder said CEO Sami Iskander will leave at the end of March next year.

He is replaced by Tareq Kawash, a senior executive at energy company McDermott.

Shares plunged 10.7 percent or 12.7 pence to 106 pence.

Building materials group CRH saw its turnover and profit increase despite problems in its European activities. Sales rose 13 percent to £20.56 billion in the three months to September, while profits jumped 14 percent to £3.54 billion.

The strong performance of CRH’s Americas Materials division contrasted sharply with its European operations, where sales fell by 9 percent and profits by 19 percent.

This was because rising costs of energy and raw materials across Western Europe outpaced the company’s price increases.

Shares fell 1.3 percent, or 44.5p, to 3300p. Pork specialist Cranswick’s turnover rose 12 per cent to £1.1 billion in the six months to September, despite a “relentlessly challenging working environment”. Shares gained 4 percent, or 122p, to 3208p.

Telecom Plus said its business is “growing faster than ever” as it brought in new customers looking to save on energy bills.

Turnover at the utility provider rose 51.5 percent to £562.4 million in the six months to September, while profits jumped 46.2 percent to £29.1 million.

Telecom Plus raised its profit forecast for the year, saying it should be at least £95m after the positive run of results. Shares rose 0.4 percent, or 10 pence, to 2,345 pence.

Profit at water supplier Severn Trent rose 2.4 percent to £261.7 million in the six months to September.

Inflation-related increases in water rates also helped boost revenue by 10.8 percent to £1.1 billion.

But Severn Trent faced rising energy prices, with energy costs rising 75.3 per cent to £41.1 million in the six months to September. Shares fell 0.7 percent, or 19 pence, to 2,739 pence.

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