Technology firms prosper as coronavirus crisis boosts demand

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SHARES in Scottish companies out-performed wider stock markets last year helped by the country’s strength in sectors such as life sciences and technology, an analysis has found.

Investment specialists at the Brewin Dolphin wealth management business found Scottish organisations on the AIM index saw their share price increase by an average of around 29 per cent in 2020. The wider index enjoyed an increase of around 21%.

Firms with a full listing on the senior market saws their shares fall by around 10.5% on average. That compared favourably with a fall of 12.3% for the FTSE All Share index.

Brewin Dolphin noted that strong performers included Omega Diagnostics, the Alva-based life sciences company. Shares in the firm ended the year up nearly 350% as it re-positioned itself to provide Covid-19 testing.

Shares in Calnex, the telecoms testing equipment supplier, increased by 150% between the time of its flotation on the Aim market in October and the end of the year.

Brewin Dolphin found the FTSE-listed Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust finished the year up 110%. It said the fund had benefitted from the rising values of many of its technology holdings, including Tesla and Amazon.

Lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus boosted demand for the services of many technology firms. However Scottish companies in sectors such as transport and banking were hit hard by the fallout from the crisis.

Stagecoach saw its value drop 54% during 2020, while John Menzies – the aviation services provider – and FirstGroup saw declines of 44% and 41% respectively, noted Brewin Dolphin.

NatWest and Virgin Money, which were formerly called RBS and Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank Group respectively, also saw their shares finish the year down around 30%.

Brewin Dolphin said all these firms saw their share prices climb sharply in the fourth quarter, amid hopes the coronavirus threat was easing.

Howevever, senior investment manager John Moore said, while there are reasons to be optimistic, many companies remain challenged. The introduction of further lockdown measures provided a reminder that there is still some way to go for many.

Bod Buckby, head of UK primary markets – North at London Stock Exchange Group, said: “Scotland is well recognised as a home for innovative life sciences and technology companies, and this is reflected in the outperformance of Scottish companies compared to wider indices.”

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