Markets report: BT slides amid talk of Openreach sale

What happened to the FTSE, pound and UK companies on the markets today?

BT has told investors it might consider selling a stake in Openreach, the UK’s dominant broadband infrastructure business, in a shift in position from earlier this year.

Chief executive Philip Jansen said he believes Openreach is undervalued and wants to make sure investors recognise its true worth, in his strongest comments yet about its future. He stressed BT wants to retain some control and a deal would only take place after March or April 2021.

The comments come amid a slide in BT’s share price – which hit an 11-year low earlier this year and is down almost 35pc since the start of January – and as the telecoms industry takes to monetising its assets. BT’s stock lost 2.3p yesterday to end at 128p.

Online trading and betting platform CMC Markets enjoyed a record first half as it reported pre-tax profit of £141m – almost four times the amount it made in the same period last year.

Volatile markets offering investors the opportunity to make big gains or losses helped the firm to reward shareholders with a 9.2p dividend compared to last year’s 2.85p interim payout. The FTSE 250 firm is investing in technology so that it can build new platforms and provide the systems that will sit behind products that carry other firms’ branding.

CMC’s shares spiked about 22p as the markets opened yesterday, but ended down 3p to 392p. Still, it remains at its highest price since listing in February 2016.

The key drag on the market was Johnson Matthey which lost 142p to £24.08 – back to levels of a week before. The chemicals firm posted an 88pc slump in pre-tax profit, having faced £78m of impairment charges.

Chief executive Robert MacLeod said the firm had managed well through the pandemic, and signalled confidence in its future, but it did little to boost the stock which shed the most on the FTSE 100 yesterday.

Shares in Royal Mail rocketed to the highest price since January 2019 after it said revenues from parcel deliveries outstripped those from letters for the first time. Its parcels division recorded a £16m operating profit while its postal arm plunged to a £129m underlying operating loss. It closed up 9.5p to 295.5p.

London’s benchmark fell yesterday after only one third of its constituents ended trading in green. Investors’ recent optimism over vaccine hopes was replaced with renewed worries about surging coronavirus infections, lockdown and the resulting damage to an already faltering domestic recovery.

That, combined with uncertainty over a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union before the Dec 31 deadline, caused the FTSE 100 to slip 50.89 points to 6,334.35, while the domestically focused FTSE 250 dropped 192.42 points to 19, 507.45.

The pound also fell slightly against the US dollar to $1.3243.