Pets at Home takes a lead as sales soar

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - LOUIS ASH­WORTH

THEY say ev­ery dog has its day. That was cer­tainly true for Pets At Home, which soared 28pc, or 84.8p, to 390p yes­ter­day, hit­ting an all-time high.

The FTSE 250 group – one of Lon­don’s best-per­form­ing re­tail stocks through lock­down – said resur­gent trad­ing mo­men­tum across its op­er­a­tions has con­tin­ued over re­cent weeks, with cus­tomers shop­ping habits re­turn­ing to pre-virus lev­els.

“It would ap­pear that pets, es­pe­cially dogs, have been an im­por­tant com­fort and com­po­nent of the UK’s men­tal and phys­i­cal health dur­ing the pan­demic,” said Shore Cap­i­tal’s Greg John­son.

It achieved “dou­ble-digit” like-for­like sales growth over the eight weeks to Sept 10, adding: “This is tes­ta­ment to sev­eral fac­tors, not least the in­her­ent re­silience in our pet care model and the un­der­ly­ing pet care mar­ket.”

Pets at Home said its un­der­ly­ing pre-tax profit is likely to be ahead of mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tions based on cur­rent trad­ing, but warned Covid-19 “con­tin­ues to cre­ate a num­ber of ma­te­rial un­cer­tain­ties around the trad­ing en­vi­ron­ment”.

The rise left Pets At Home as the FTSE 250’s stand­out yes­ter­day. Also ris­ing strongly was Na­tional Ex­press, up 15p at 140p, which said its per­for­mance had been “slightly above our pre­vi­ously guided base case”, with an­tic­i­pated rev­enue at 50pc of pre-Covid lev­els at the end of Au­gust. The trans­port op­er­a­tor said its un­der­ly­ing liq­uid­ity re­mains “strong”, with sev­eral “no­table con­tract wins” over re­cent months.

The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 both un­der­per­formed in­dices across Europe as in­vestors di­gested new re­stric­tions and stim­u­lus ef­fort from the Govern­ment. The pound traded in a nar­row range through the ses­sion.

Lon­don’s blue chips were dragged down by a string of heavy­weight fall­ers, in­clud­ing As­traZeneca, down 253p at £85.59 af­ter the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals gi­ant said it is still await­ing ap­provals from US reg­u­la­tors to con­tinue its vac­cine tri­als in the coun­try, hav­ing paused global tri­als af­ter a par­tic­i­pant grew ill.

Ed­u­ca­tion group Pear­son was the big­gest riser on the FTSE 100, climb­ing 31.4p to 536.6p. Gold­man Sachs an­a­lyst Kather­ine Tait said pre­lim­i­nary data on US un­der­grad­u­ate en­rol­ments sug­gests num­bers had fallen about 2.5pc, less than Pear­son had feared.

Cineworld was the big­gest drag on the FTSE 250, drop­ping 7.2p to 41.4p af­ter re­veal­ing a $1.6bn (£1.25bn) first-half loss. An­a­lysts warned the cin­ema chain’s fu­ture hangs on suc­cess­ful film launches.

Pub chain Mitchells & But­lers slipped slightly, fall­ing 2.2p to 133.8p af­ter say­ing food trad­ing had taken a hit af­ter the end of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Jef­feries an­a­lyst James Wheatcroft said tight­en­ing re­stric­tions “will likely un­der­mine con­fi­dence in the tim­ing of a re­turn to nor­mal­ity”.

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