FTSE nudges 7,000 points as US economy rebounds
Shares in Oxford Biomedica rose to their highest level since mid-March after the Covid vaccine manufacturer announced an investment drive thanks in part to its contract with AstraZeneca. It came as the company said sales last year rose 37pc to £87.7m, while revenue from its bioprocessing and commercial development division grew by nearly half to £68.5m, thanks in large part to cash generated by the deal with AstraZeneca to make the jab. This year the biotech expects another £50m sales bump from payments from Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca and that demand for similar contract manufacturing and bioprocessing services will increase sharply. It was already in the process of expanding, completing the construction of a giant manufacturing facility called Oxbox, before the pandemic struck. Three of the four processing suites are being used to make the vaccine and the facility has capacity for four to six more suites. Chief executive John Dawson said he expects a “massive increase” in the work the firm carries out in cell and gene therapy and manufacturing, and the AstraZeneca money had given the firm “more leeway to invest in the platform”. “The platform is very important and investing in the technology will enable us to improve quality and the batch yields, making more doses per batch”. Shares in the FTSE 250 company rose 2p to £10.42. On the FTSE 100, pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline took the limelight as the second biggest winner among blue-chips on reports hedge fund activist Elliott Management had built up a multibillion-pound stake in the firm. Shares surged 58.8p to £13.48. UK markets had a strong session with the FTSE 250 sustaining recent momentum, closing 116.5 points higher to reach a record 22,472.04. The FTSE 100, meanwhile, hit its highest level since February 2020 to finish up 43.92 points, just shy of 7,000. Mining giants buoyed the benchmark index, with Antofagasta, Fresnillo and Polymetal all among the top risers. A pick up of iron ore prices due to tight near-term supply also helped lift the broader mining sector. “There are increasing signs that UK stocks are finally finding favour with investors as the UK economy embarks upon the next stage of its economic reopening,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. Helping to boost sentiment also was US stocks hitting fresh records on the back of higher than expected retail sales last month and lower than expected jobless claims in the past week, fuelling recovery optimism. In this light, FTSE 250 developer Countryside Properties was the top mid-cap riser, up 26p to 541p. It was followed closely by train ticket platform Trainline, which gained 16.6p to 489.8p, and housebuilder Crest Nicholson, which rose 13.4p to 428p. Elsewhere, London Stock Exchange Group jumped 146p to £79 after one of its major investors backed extra spending to fix problems at its new $27bn (£20bn) purchase of Refinitiv.