Pick of the early market news
We start with a strong trading statement from Sainsbury's. Sales from stores open more than one year climbed 2.1% for the 14 weeks up to 7 January. Like-for-like sales for the third quarter were up 4.8% (2.1 per cent excluding fuel).
"This was a strong quarter, rounded off by our best Christmas ever, despite the economic backdrop," says chief exec Justin King. "There were 26 million customer transactions in the Christmas week, 1.5 million more than last year."
King added that Sainsbury's will continue its Brand Match promise into 2012. A record number of people used Nectar cards in the quarter, with £100 million worth of points redeemed he says; 21 new "local" stores also opened.
More positive sales news from baker Greggs. Like-for-like sales climbed 5.1% for the five weeks up to 7 Jan, the bread and sandwiches maker said in a trading statement, and total sales climbed 10.8% thanks to a rash of new store openings.
Greggs managed to sell 7m mince pies, a 27% increase on last year and coffee sales were up sharply, by 21%. Cost inflation for food ingredients have also began to ease towards the end of the year in line with forecasts, Greggs says.
"Rising food and energy costs have been a feature of 2011 but to reduce the impact on customers we have continued to invest in promotional activity in order to maintain our value position in what has remained a very competitive market. Despite these pressures, we anticipate that we will report full year results in line with expectations when we make our preliminary announcement on 14 March 2012."
Finally, we end with full year numbers from Michael Page. Gross profits in the fourth quarter climbed 13.4% to £135.9m with the EMEA area of the company contributing £60.9m (up 15.3%). Full year 2011 gross profits have consequently come in at £553.7m, an increase of £111.5m or 25.2% (23.1%) on 2010 Michael Page says.
"We expect our pretax profit from trading activities to be in the region of £85m, approximately 18% up on 2010," says chief exec Steve Ingham. "We continue to benefit from our geographic and discipline diversification, achieving growth during the year in all reported disciplines and geographic regions. Our financial position is strong, with approximately £60m of cash at the end of the year."