Homeowners cashing in their pensions to spruce up their patios have helped paving slab business Marshalls exceed expectations.
Revenue at the landscaping firm climbed 12 per cent in the first half of the year to £244.3million, as boss Martyn Coffey said new rules allowing over-55s to withdraw and spend cash from their pensions were boosting sales.
Increased demand for protective road bollards and barriers, in the wake of terrorist attacks involving cars such as the one in Westminster this week, also gave Marshalls a lift, Coffey added.
Sales boost: Marshalls boss said pensioners were spending money on refurbishing their patios
Profits at the firm, which is involved in landscaping major infrastructure projects such as London’s Crossrail and the high-speed rail line HS2, motored ahead by 12 per cent to £32.5million.
The impressive performance came despite icy conditions at the beginning of the year, which hit Marshalls’ sales by around £9million as building works were delayed and DIY fanatics were kept indoors.
Though the company was given a welcome boost by the UK’s unusually hot summer, Marshalls’ board signalled their confidence that the first half of the year was not just a one-off.
They hiked the dividend by 18 per cent to 4p, causing the shares to climb 14.4 per cent, or 61p, to 483.4p.
The FTSE 250 also received a leg-up from On the Beach, as the online travel agent bought luxury package holiday retailer Classic Collection for £20million.
Classic Collection is set to take On the Beach in a different direction, as it sells its beach holidays through physical independent high street travel agents.
On the Beach hopes the deal will give it access to the offline market, while it will in turn help Classic Collection build an online portal for travel agents.
Shares in On the Beach flew 15.7 per cent, or 64.5p, to 476p. But the real winners were Nick Munday, Classic Collection’s managing director, and a handful of private investors who together owned the company, as they pocketed the £20million cash-and-shares payment.
Amid the celebrations, AJ Bell’s Russ Mould sounded a note of caution. Below the news of the deal in the stock market announcement, On the Beach buried a trading update which Mould said essentially amounted to a ‘mild profit warning’.
It warned that the football World Cup and the UK heatwave had ‘impacted headline revenue growth’, though it had reduced marketing spend to counter this. Revenue and profit would still be ‘broadly’ in line with expectations, the company said.
Two more deals involving London-listed firms were also struck. Care home provider CareTech revealed it had finally had its bid for Cambian, which offers specialist education and fostering services, accepted by the company.
CareTech is set to pay £372million for Cambian, less than it had originally proposed. The offer, which will give shareholders 190p in cash or 100p and 0.3 CareTech shares, has already been accepted by a majority of Cambian’s investors.
CareTech’s shares ended the day up 0.5 per cent, or 2p, at 376.5p, while Cambian’s rose a marginal 0.3 per cent, or 0.5p, to 191p.
Meanwhile Abzena, which provides lab services to biopharmaceutical companies, saw its shares rocket 152.1 per cent, or 9.1p, to 15.1p as it recommended shareholders accept a £34million takeover offer from US private equity firm WCAS.
The FTSE 100 recovered slightly from yesterday’s fall, as commodity prices began to rise again after China said it was preparing a delegation to head to Washington to discuss a settlement of the ongoing trade dispute.
The blue-chip index climbed 0.78 per cent, or 58.51 points, to end the day at 7556.38.