The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) edged cautiously up during early trade this morning, adding 17 points to 6,586, or an increase of 0.25%.
The biggest riser was the Chile-based copper miner Antofagasta. Despite a drop in full year profits to $2.7bn resulting from lower metal prices — which impacted a host of miners in 2013 — Antofagasta surprised the market with a bigger than expected dividend hike. The reason being that it has accumulated a large cash pile and “this money doesn’t earn high interest rates”. Quite. As I’m sure you Foolish investors are well aware.
That said, there were still a few double-digit fallers today:
The Scottish oil and gas explorer Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE) plunged 12% to 173p after suspending a $300m share buyback programme. Cairn had hoped to sell its 10% stake in Cairn India, but this now won’t happen until a tax dispute is resolved.
India is attempting to narrow its budget deficit this year, and the government has launched a tax crackdown which has dragged in other foreign firms as well as tax evading billionaires.
Cairn is facing a potential tax bill on the capital gains it made when transferring all its Indian assets into Cairn India in 2006.
The company reported a loss of £660m in 2013 after a number of drilling projects failed to deliver expected results.
Speedy Hire (LSE: SDY) was the leading faller on the FTSE All-Share after warning that profits for the year will fall below market expectations. Shares in the provider of equipment rental — mainly to the construction industry — slumped 17% to 64p on the news.
The reason for this was an increase in losses in the firm’s Middle East business. Former chief executive, Steve Corcoran, was forced to quit in November after the discovery of a £5m hole in the Dubai division, caused by accounting irregularities.
Whether this will ‘clear the decks’ going forward, as analysts have suggested, remains to be seen. Prior to today’s news Speedy Hire had performed well in the last year, improving its share price by 70%.
The gold miner Fresnillo (LSE: FRES) is the number two faller among leading FTSE 100 shares this morning. Shares fell 5% to 878p as investors offloaded their stake in gold companies, with the threat of war in Ukraine receding.
Gold has risen sharply in recent months due to the increase in “safe-haven” buying. Renewed tensions in Ukraine could easily see prices jump again.
In its recent full-year results profits were revealed to have fallen 64% to $419m. To cheer shareholders Fresnillo recommended a special one off dividend of $50m.
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Mark does not own shares in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Cairn Energy.