City round-up: Autotrader; Regional REIT; AstraZeneca

Auto Trader

Autotrader, the Manchester-based online car dealership group, has increased interim sales and profits, it announced today.

Turnover in the period ending September 30, 2023, was £280.5m, up from £249.7m, while the pre-tax profit of £162.8m was an improvement on the previous year’s £148m. The interim dividend has been raised from 2.8p per share to 3.2p.

Chief executive, Nathan Coe, said: “It has been a strong start to the year with more buyers spending more time and completing more of their car buying journey on Auto Trader.

“We are working in partnership with record numbers of retailers and manufacturers, who are turning to our platform as the most effective and efficient way to source, price and sell their vehicles.

“We remain confident in our long term prospects given the strength of our business and the opportunities to deliver meaningful value for car buyers, customers, our people and shareholders.”

The board said it is confident for the second half of the year. The majority of the group’s revenues are recurring in nature and the major growth event for the year has been successfully delivered in the first half.


Stephen Inglis

Property firm Regional REIT, which has offices in Old Trafford overseeing properties throughout the North West, said it has ontinued to trade well during its third quarter period, to September 30, 2023, and has made good progress.

It said it has completed a number of lease renewals during the quarter. Retention remained high with 73.2% of units up for renewal let to the same tenants. Renewals achieved a 6.2% uplift in rental income.

Since January 1, 2023, the group has exchanged on 56 leases to new tenants totalling 96,355 sq ft and £1.6m per annum of rental income when fully occupied, achieving a rental uplift of 11.3% against December 2022 ERVs. Of this total, 13 leases have been exchanged since June 30, 2023, totalling 25,859 sq ft and will provide £0.4m pa of additional rental income.

Including the letting announced on October 31, 2023, at Norfolk House to Global Banking School, the year-to-date total let space amounted to 125,738 sq ft, providing £2.1m pa of additional rental income.

During the period under review, the challenging economic backdrop and inflationary environment remained evident with a subdued investment market, and though positive leasing momentum continued across the portfolio, the time to completion remains elongated, it said.

In the near term, the board remains focused on a controlled disposal programme, to reduce the LTV back to the company’s long term target of 40%, while maintaining the quarterly dividend.

Stephen Inglis, CEO of London & Scottish Property Investment Management, asset manager, said: “The company has performed robustly in the period, against a backdrop of a volatile market conditions, and continued headwind for the commercial office market.

“We again achieved strong rent collection and lease retention for the quarter, highlighting the strength and diversity of our tenant base; and although, completions were elongated we achieved an average uplift of 6.2% in rental income, providing an additional £0.4m of rental income per annum.

“We continue to remain committed to a programme of asset sales to reduce net borrowings back to the company’s long term c.40% LTV target.”


Astrazeneca’s Speke site

Pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, has announced a four per cent increase in total sales for its latest nine month period of $33.787bn.

Excluding COVID-19 medicines, both total revenue and product sales increased 15%.

The group employs around 4,700 people in the North West on sites at Macclesfield and Alderley Park in Cheshire and Speke on Merseyside.

Chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said: “Our company continued its strong growth trajectory in the third quarter with total revenue from our non‑COVID-19 medicines up 13% compared to last year.

“We initiated several Phase III trials of high potential molecules this quarter, including for volrustomig, our PD‑1/CTLA-4 bispecific antibody. Our portfolio of bispecifics has the potential to replace the first-generation checkpoint inhibitors across a range of cancers.

“We also initiated a fixed dose combination study of zibotentan with Farxiga which has the potential to significantly improve outcomes for patients with kidney disease not well controlled on current standard of care.”

He added: “I am excited about the acceleration of our cardiometabolic and obesity pipeline with today’s licensing agreement for ECC5004, a potential best-in-class, oral GLP-1RA. This molecule could offer an important advance, as both a monotherapy and in combinations, for the estimated one billion people living with cardiometabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes and obesity.

“Given the momentum in the year to date we have increased our full-year guidance for total revenue excluding COVID medicines as well as for Core EPS.”

Russ Mould, investment director at Manchester investment platform, AJ Bell, said: “AstraZeneca continued to show its strong suit in oncology treatments with its third quarter update and this was the key driver behind an increase in profit guidance.

“Alongside these encouraging numbers the company spent $2bn on an exclusive licence for an oral weight-loss drug candidate, Eccogene.

“While this might be perceived as an attempt to jump on the coat tails of the likes of Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly in what has become a booming market, AstraZeneca has form for adding strings to its bow – prior to the COVID pandemic it was not considered to have any particular expertise in vaccines, for example.

“The latest update will build confidence the company can sustain its recent momentum and reclaim its position as the largest company on the FTSE 100 from energy giant Shell.”

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