Healthy Smurfit results fail to impress market


The ISEQ index of Irish shares traded up a modest 17 points yesterday to close at 5,372.78 in a day dominated by interim results and heavy trading.

Almost 30 million shares were traded in Smurfit on the Dublin and London markets following the announcement of first-half results at the top end of market expectations. But early gains were wiped out as market sentiment remained sceptical about the likelihood of a sustained recovery in the US paper market. The stock closed down seven cents at €2.15.

The market responded favourably to First Active's announcement that it had sold 60 per cent of its mortgage business in the UK to a Birmingham-based UK insurance company, Britannic plc. The share closed up almost 10 per cent at €2.03, well above the record low of €1.7 hit on Tuesday. One analyst said the bank was setting itself up to be "taken out sometime down the road" and this was reflected in yesterday's gains.

But there was still no good news for Eircom shareholders as the company's shares closed down eight cents at a record low of €2.37. Analysts blamed negative sentiment in the worldwide telecoms sector for the fall. They highlighted a profit warning and a set of poor results issued by Dutch telcoms company KPN as a key driver in yesterday's sector weakness.

Kerry remained unchanged at €15 following results slightly ahead of consensus figures while Arnotts shed 10 cents at €6.90 despite posting a 16.3 per cent increase in pre-tax profit at €5.03 million in the half year to July 31st.

On the London exchange shares in Parthus surged 17 per cent to 285p sterling on news of a product launch, while Baltimore surged another 9 per cent to 779p.