Pick of the early market news

Commuters walk over bridge in LondonNews of another record set of profits from insurer Admiral starts us off this morning – results that bring an £8m windfall for the firm's staff. There's also a pretty impressive set of results from comms giant WPP, plus some healthy figures from Serco.
Insurer Admiral reports record half-year profits again this morning. The company made £160.6m before tax for the first half of the year, an increase of 27% on the figure for the same period last year. Turnover was up 53% to £1.1bn with the group vehicle count up 33% to 3.15m.

With earnings per share up 28% at 43.39, the board has declared a record interim dividend payment of 39.1p per share, that's up 20%. CEO Henry Engelhardt expressed his delight, saying: "It wasn't so long ago that we were pleased to report over £1 billion turnover for a full year.

"This is an incredible achievement and is credit to the hard work of everyone at Admiral. All in all we're pleased with the numbers for the first half of 2011. As a result, every member of staff will receive £1,500 of free shares in the Group, worth over £8 million in total."

Advertising and comms giant WPP reports a 37% increase in pre-tax profits to £334m in its interims posted this morning. Billings were up 5.2% to £21.392bn and reported revenues up 6.1% to £4.713bn. The dividend is up 25% to 7.46p per share.

Serco's half-year report shows revenue rose 4.9% to £2,245.8m in the six months to 30 June. That took profits before tax up 10.3% to £111.8m. Earnings per share rose 10.6% to 16.74p and the board has put the dividend up 13.6% to 2.50p per share.

Chief executive Christopher Ryan said that the company was "without doubt" facing "challenging conditions in the UK and the US, but he believed "the breadth of our portfolio... and the flexibility and innovation of our 100,000 people underpin our strong growth opportunities into the future."

The FTSE 100 closed up 34 points at 5,129 yesterday, rising for a second successive day. After early rises, the market slowed at lunchtime when Wall Street opened– just as it did on Monday. Investors seem to be using rallies to shift risky stocks and reduce exposure.

Stock on the rise included ITV, which did a deal with Credit Suisse which sees the bank take on part of the risk of the TV's company's long-term pension risk, and recruiter Michael Page International, which rose 3.4% as rumours of a bid from Adecco or Randstad circulated.

In the US, the Dow closed up 322 points at 11.176 on speculation that Friday's speech by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke may signal action to boost growth. The markets in Paris and Frankfurt closed up 33 and 59 points respectively, but Asian markets were in retreat after the Japan downgrade.

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