Shares in Pearson leapt almost 9 per cent as the education publisher returned to growth even as it battled exam cancellations and school closures.
It said total sales had increased by 4 per cent in the final three months of 2020, its first positive figure of the year after three quarters of decline.
The rise included a 30 per cent boost to online learning sales, a division that has seen demand turbocharged by the coronavirus crisis as universities and schools switch to remote learning.
Home learning boom: Education publisher Pearson revealed total sales had increased by 4 per cent in the final three months of 2020
However, Pearson said sales had fallen 10 per cent overall in 2020 compared to the previous year as other areas, including sales of textbooks and exam materials, were hammered by disruption.
In just one example, the closure of immigration and test centres in Australia meant that the number of the company’s English language tests being taken dropped 36 per cent lower than in 2019.
Despite this, the firm said it was on course to deliver £310million to £315million in adjusted underlying profit. Andy Bird, the company’s new boss and a former Disney executive, said: ‘Uncertainty remains in the near term as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
Stock Watch – Synairgen
British drug maker Synairgen is pushing ahead with trials of its Covid-19 treatment in patients’ homes after recruiting people for a study.
Its inhaled drug aims to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight off the virus.
Synairgen previously did a trial with 101 hospital patients, which suggested it cut the odds of becoming severely ill by 80 per cent.
It is now carrying out a larger hospital trial and a separate test at patients’ homes on 120 people.
It fell 5.3 per cent, or 9p, to 162p.
‘However, I am excited about our future given the shift to online learning and the huge opportunity to help more people develop the skills they need.’
Shares rose 8.6 per cent, or 58.2p, to 737.2p, their highest since 2019.
It has been all-change at flexible office provider IWG, which fell 3.3 per cent or 11p to 324p Boss Mark Dixon is revamping its approach to adapt to a ‘new norm’ where workers divide their time between home and the office.
This hybrid approach will see companies use offices more for meetings, collaboration and training, with staff coming in fewer days per week.
That has spelt trouble for some landlords, who have seen their buildings emptied, tenants refusing to pay and clients scaling back space requirements.
IWG, which owns the Regus brand, has set aside a further £160million in costs related to closures of sites that are no longer profitable, on top of £156million announced last August.
But it believes it has a bright future providing flexible office services, and has signed a deal with bank Standard Chartered to do so in 3,500 locations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Elsewhere, pub chain Wetherspoons rose 5.2 per cent, or 61p, to 1244p after it tapped investors for £94million.
It issued 8.4m new shares to raise the money, which it said would help it to ‘emerge from the pandemic in a strong position’.
It expects its pubs to remain shut until at least the end of March because of the national lockdown and 99 per cent of its 37,700 staff have been furloughed.
Its success boosted rival chain Mitchells & Butlers, thought to be mulling a rights issue, which rose 8.4 per cent, or 21.5p, to 276.5p.
It was a positive day for the FTSE 100 as well, as global markets rallied amid the swearing-in of US President Joe Biden, who wants to plough further stimulus into the economy. The index rose 0.4 per cent, or 27.44 points, to 6740.39, its first gain this week.
Leading the way were the miners, who were boosted by positive production forecasts from BHP.
The firm, up 2.8 per cent, or 58.5p, to 2169.5p, is expecting to make record amounts of iron ore in 2021 and prices for the commodity are expected to be high.
Rival Anglo American lifted 1.9 per cent, or 49p, to 2675p after the news and Glencore rose 2.4 per cent, or 6.6p, to 280.3p.
Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 was also up 1.4 per cent, or 278.57 points, to 20,881.46. But engineer Avon Rubber fell 5.4 per cent, or 185p, to 3235p after Berenberg cut its share price target from 4065p to 3335p.
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