Telecoms company TalkTalk saw more than £111m knocked off its value after analysts said it could no longer rely on being the cheapest in the market.
The firm, which has seen its shares plunge more than 44 per cent since November, sank 9 per cent, or 11.7p, to 119p following a downgrade by investment bank Exane.
The bank said that while TalkTalk has relied on being one of the cheapest broadband providers, it faces increased pressure from rivals cutting prices to keep cash-strapped customers on board.
Exane said: ‘TalkTalk has been the primary beneficiary of customers spinning down, but this is no longer the case … their share of the discount market is coming under renewed pressure. We think there is another dividend cut ahead and cut our price target by 35 per cent to 90p.’
It added that the premium sector of the market is also set to face increased pressure this year as consumers seek low price offers, putting downward pressure on the industry as a whole. TalkTalk has relied on cheap broadband plans to lure customers from its rivals but was forced to slash its dividend and warn on its profits last May after the strategy hurt its bottom line.
The firm also faced criticism for its handling of a cyber-attack in 2016, which saw the personal data of 157,000 people stolen – including bank account details in nearly 16,000 cases – and cost the company £60m.
The FTSE 100 finished down 0.7 per cent, or 54.4 points, to 7533.6 points while the FTSE 250 finished down 0.6 per cent, or 127.3 points, to 20243.6 points.
Low-cost Hungarian airline Wizz Air dipped 3.2 per cent, or 113p, to 3,463p after reporting a 56 per cent drop in profits. The carrier said profits in the three months to December 31 fell to £12.8m from £29m the year before, while operating expenses jumped by a quarter to £359.5m amid higher fuel prices.
Wizz Air said the plunge in profits was down to a mixture of one-off costs including its acquisition of Monarch’s slots in London Luton airport, its expansion in Vienna following the collapse of Air Berlin and weather-related flight cancellations in December.
Still, despite the profit plunge, sales jumped 24pc to £372.5m –thanks to a 24 per cent rise in passenger numbers to a record 7.1m.
Elsewhere, regional airline Flybe was given a lift after convincing investors its turnaround plan was gaining traction. It said sales jumped 8.5 per cent to £158.8m in the third quarter, while passenger numbers rose 8.1 per cent to 2.3m.
Passenger revenue per seat – an industry-wide measure – increased 13.3 per cent to £52.9 from £46.7. Chief executive, Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: ‘We are making strong progress against our sustainable business improvement plan. We expect this improvement to continue but at a slightly slower rate in the final quarter of the year.’
Shares in the airline soared as much as 4 per cent in early trading before finishing flat at 36p.
Housebuilders were hit by reports they could lose planning permission on unused land if they fail to hit construction targets. Persimmon dropped 2.7 per cent, or 69p, to 2,502p, Barratt slipped 2.6 per cent, or 15.6p, to 585.2p and Taylor Wimpey dipped 2.3 per cent, or 4.5p, to 190.6p.
Sofa retailer SCS surged 6.9 per cent, or 14p, to 216p after toasting a 2.2 per cent increase in same-store sales in the 26 weeks to January 27.
Also up was Cathedral City owner Dairy Crest, which jumped 5.1 per cent, or 28.5p, to 588.5p after revealing sales for the nine months to the end of December were well ahead of the year before.
The butter, cheese and cooking spray maker said its key brands –Cathedral City, Clover, Country Life and Frylight – were up 7 per cent during the period.
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