MARKET REPORT: Shares in Hastings soar


MARKET REPORT: Shares in Hastings soar after car insurer emerges as a takeover target

Shares in Hastings soared after the car insurer emerged as a takeover target. 

Finland’s Sampo and South Africa’s Rand Merchant Investment (RMI) – Hastings’ biggest investor – are in talks to make a cash offer for the group. 

Sampo is keen on the tech-savvy operations and wants to expand into the non-life insurance market. Geographically speaking, it’s also keen to venture beyond its Nordic base. 

RMI has owned just under 30 per cent of Hastings since 2017 and has a representative, Herman Bosman, on the FTSE 250-listed group’s board. Hastings has now set up an independent committee that excludes Bosman to consider the approach that has been made. 

Sampo and RMI have until August 26 to decide whether to take it further – or walk away. 

Before the pandemic Hastings warned on profits and trimmed its dividend due to the impact of rising repair costs and a number of claims from people seriously injured in accidents. This is partly due to Government changes to the way damage payments are calculated – also known as the Ogden rate. 

Investors in Hastings, which was worth £1.1billion before the talks were revealed, put the pedal to the floor last night, sending its shares 18 per cent higher, up 30.6 per cent, to 200.6p. 

Hastings wasn’t the only sharp riser. Funeral provider Dignity rose by more than a third after an increase in profits. The gruesome toll taken by the pandemic drove death rates 23 per cent higher between January and June. Sadly this meant, of course, that more funerals had to be held. Revenue rose by around 9 per cent to £169m – though higher costs meant it swung to a £13.6m loss. 

Average income per funeral fell by £458 to £2,461, as people were forced to choose smaller and simpler services. 

Shares finished 35.5 per cent higher, up 86.5p, to 330p. 

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, on the other hand, tumbled to the bottom of the FTSE 100’s leaderboard after it made a £40m loss in the first half of the year and predicted there will be a 40 per cent drop in the number of homes it completes this year. 

The company and its rivals enjoyed solid gains on Tuesday, following reports that ministers are plotting to extend the Help to Buy scheme to boost the fragile housing market. 

But the mood soured yesterday, with Taylor Wimpey falling 8.1 per cent, or 10.75 points, to 122.2p, and peers such as Persimmon – down 2.3 per cent, or 57p, to 2479p – and Bovis Homes-owner Vistry, which dipped 4.4 per cent, or 29.5p, to 638.5p, falling into the red. 

London’s two main indexes were considerably flatter, with the FTSE 100 ending 0.04 per cent higher, up 2.2 points, to 6131.46, while the FTSE 250 lost 0.2 per cent, or 30.57 points, to 17,247.66. 

Pandemic-related delays to elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacements knocked Smith & Nephew to a £26m loss and put a double-digit drag on sales in April, May and June. 

Shares fell 0.6 per cent, or 10.5p, to 1619.5p, with investors perhaps soothed by its commitment to pay an interim dividend. 

Elsewhere, Oxo, Loyd Grossman sauces and Bisto-gravy maker Premier Foods has served up a robust set of numbers. 

Shares rose 4.7 per cent, or 4p, to 90p after it revealed first-quarter sales rose 23 per cent in the UK, when the country was at the height of lockdown. Total sales were up 22.5 per cent. 

But the Mr Kipling cake maker sold fewer cakes and, as a result, only saw a small rise in total sweet treat sales during those months. Still, it said it outperformed the market in every category.



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