MARKET REPORT: Summer flu outbreak and easing of Covid curbs in China boost sales at


Haleon shrugged off the cost of living crisis yesterday as the painkiller seller reaped the rewards of a flu outbreak at the start of the summer.

It said its annual sales would now be better than previously hoped thanks to shoppers swallowing 7.5 per cent price increases and sticking with the Sensodyne and Panadol maker.

Sales were helped by the easing of Covid curbs in China, which boosted demand for its medications, while a flu outbreak this spring saw consumers scramble to stock up on medication.

As a result the FTSE 100 company, which was split off from pharma giant GSK last July, said revenue increased 10.4 per cent to £5.7billion for the first half of 2023.

Haleon, which celebrated its first anniversary on the London Stock Exchange last month, also posted a profits increase of 8.9 per cent to £1.3billion, compared to the first half of 2022. 

Healthy sales: Painkiller maker Haleon was boosted after a flu outbreak this spring saw consumers scramble to stock up on medication

Healthy sales: Painkiller maker Haleon was boosted after a flu outbreak this spring saw consumers scramble to stock up on medication

‘One year from listing, we are very pleased with Haleon’s first half results,’ chief executive Brian McNamara said. 

But shares in Haleon were dented 2.53 per cent, or 8.35p, trading at 321.7p yesterday.

Investors were discouraged after the firm said its operating margin had shrunk in the first half due to painful inflationary pressures.

McNamara warned ‘we continue to expect a challenging environment given further pressure on consumer spending and global geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainties’. 

The FTSE 100 plunged in opening exchanges yesterday after the market was spooked by a credit rating downgrade from top US agency Fitch. London’s blue chip index sank 1.36 per cent, or 104.64 points, to 7561.63.

But Smurfit shares were a rare bright spot despite the packaging giant having posted shrinking sales. 

Demand for cardboard boxes had folded after the highs of a pandemic boom and hesitation amid the global economic downturn, causing a 9 per cent drop in sales.

Stock Watch – Hochschild Mining

Shares in Hochschild Mining soared yesterday as the seller of silver and gold said it had received a long-awaited green light for one of its mines.

Its share price increased by 17.5 per cent, or 13.3p, to 89.5p.

The British-based company, which employs 3,600 people, said its Inmaculada mine in southwest Peru had been granted an environmental permit for another 20 years.

Boss Ignacio Bustamante said the development would add significant value and boost productivity at the site.

But chief executive Tony Smurfit reassured investors, saying that when demand does return, the company would consider putting up the prices of boxes.

The company was established as a box-maker in Dublin in 1934 and was acquired by Mr Jefferson Smurfit four years later, trading afterwards as Jefferson Smurfit. It was listed on the Irish Stock Exchange in 1964.

Jefferson Smurfit grew under the leadership of the founder’s son, Sir Michael Smurfit, who became chief executive in 1974. His son Tony is the current chief executive. Shares were up 1.83 per cent, or 56p, to 3116p yesterday.

Elsewhere Ferrexpo shares dipped 6.26 per cent, or 5.8p, to 86.9p after the mining company posted falling half-year profits.

It said operations in Ukraine were still being affected by the ongoing war, with revenues dropping 64 per cent to £262million.

Convatec, which sells medical bandages and catheters, posted booming profits over the first six months of the year, sending shares up 6.32 per cent, or 13p, to 218.8p.

The Reading-based company also hiked its full-year guidance.

Investors cheered the news that oil engineering firm John Wood and Shell have inked a three-year contract. It means the former will support Shell’s greenfield and brownfield projects. Shares in John Wood were up 1.39 per cent, or 2.1p, to 153.3p.

Halfords shares crashed after there were warnings that its earnings per share has shrunk at 11pc a year over the past five years.

Analysts warned this could suggest the business is having a hard time and thus limit its capability to pay a bigger dividend per year in the future.

But there was some short-term good news for investors as it said it would pay its dividend of £0.07 on September 15, a higher payment than last year. 

Shares were down 5.89 per cent, or 12.8p, at 204.4p.

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