London pre-open: Stocks seen muted; retail sales, Paris shooting in focus
(ShareCast News) - London stocks were set to kick off the final session of the week in a rather muted fashion as investors eyed the release of retail sales figures and digested the terror attack in Paris late on Thursday.
The FTSE 100 was expected to open just four points higher at 7,106.
CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said the UK consumer was going to be in the spotlight along with the pound after this week's strong rebound in the wake of the election announcement.
"We saw a big rebound in March retail sales of 1.4% after three months of weak numbers, and while this was welcome it doesn't disguise the fact that rising prices have been squeezing consumer incomes and curbing spending habits in recent months.
"Having said that inflation does appear to have plateaued a little and employment levels remain high while wages are just about holding up. Could we see a March surprise or will we see the numbers fall back? Expectations are for a decline of 0.3% with annualised sales falling to 3.4%."
Events in Paris were likely to be in focus after a police officer was killed and two others injured in a shooting on the Champs-Élysées that was later claimed by Isis. It transpired that the gunman - who was shot dead as he tried to flee the scene - had been under preliminary investigation for terrorism but had been let go due to a lack of evidence.
The shooting came just three days before the first round of presidential elections.
In corporate news, WS Atkins, the rail, telecoms and defence engineer, has agreed to be taken over by Canada's SNC-Lavalin for £2.1bn.
According to the deal agreed by the FTSE 250 company's board confirmed that Atkins shareholders will each receive 2,080p per share, as offered at the start of the month.
Property developer Hammerson has secured a £360m loan at an initial margin of 90 basis points from a syndicate of fourteen banks in a bid to reduce its debt.
The revolving credit facility has a maturity of five years, which may be extended to a maximum of seven years, and will refinance an existing £175m facility maturing in April 2018.
Private equity firm Electra said it had received £67m from AXIO Group in relation to the sale of RISI.
RISI was sold to Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC for $125m (£97.5m) earlier this month.
Electra said the sale was the sixth major realisation from AXIO's portfolio and takes total cash proceeds received by Electra from its investment in AXIO to almost £420m, or 4.6x original cost, and the total return, including Electra's investment in the remainder of the AXIO Group, including TechInsights, to more than five times original cost.
Consumer products group Reckitt Benckiser posted a trading update for its first quarter, reporting it was in line with expectations with continued strong performance in the health division led by Mucinex and Durex.
The group said that growth was offset by headwind in Scholl/Amopé, which also impacted Europe-North America performance.
Growth rates were set to improve through the year, and RB said it was on track for its full year net revenue target of 3% like-for-like.