Stocks Mixed As Catalonia Crisis Eases Before Fed

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Bad news may come in threes for Provident Financial if the City watchdog delivers another blow when it hands out its verdict on a possible mis-selling scandal at its Vanquis Bank division, analysts at Barclays warned yesterday.

The note reignited investor jitters about the doorstep lender ahead of a trading update tomorrow, leaving its shares down 36p on the day at 800.5p.

Since the lender’s second profit warning of the summer in August wiped 66pc off the shares in a day the stock had rallied from lows of 589.5p.

However, Barclays’ analyst Toni Dang cut its target on Provident from 600p to 584p yesterday, highlighting the risk of hefty fines from the Financial Conduct Authority if it found the lender had mis-sold a product that let customers freeze loan repayments for a fee.

Provident voluntarily suspending new sales of the product – called  Repayment Option Plan – indicates that management believes that the watchdog will take a dim view to the lender charging customers for freezing their repayments, Barclays argued. The bank reckons that Vanquis could afford to pay out up to £200m with a full refund of ROP payments totalling £140m, but an additional fine from the FCA could stop the firm paying a dividend for a second year running.

Elsewhere, AIM-listed toys and games developer Character plunged 13pc after slashing its guidance as the ripples from retailing giant Toys ‘R’ Us filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy begin to affect the wider sector.

Character warned that sales will be “significantly below” market estimates, knocking the toy maker 57.5p to 388p to its worst share price in two-and-a-half years.

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