Pick of the early market news
We commence with a trading update from engineering and construction group Kentz. Revenues and profits for the full year 2011 are marginally ahead of consensus expectations and there is a record backlog of US$2.40 billion, up 50% from December 2010, "underpinned by further new awards and natural growth on existing contracts".
"2011 was another strong year for Kentz," says chief exec Hugh O'Donnell, "with growth in revenue, profit and backlog. We anticipate continued development in both our core and emerging markets such as Russia, Australia and Canada. Overall, the outlook is very positive, underpinned by the solid project pipeline of our core clients, which gives us confidence for 2012 and beyond."
Next, financial services group Close Brothers says grim market conditions in the securities market dented otherwise highly positive results from its banking arm. But the group remains in a strong financial position with a sound level of funding and capital, it claims.
In banking, there is good growth in the loan book - 9% - in the five months to 31 December 2011 to £3.8 billion (31 July 2011: £3.4 billion). The net interest margin remains strong, close to the level in the second half of the previous financial year, while the bad debt ratio has remained stable, says Close.
On the securities side, "increased market volatility and a change in mix driven by reduced retail investor risk appetite have led to significantly reduced income per bargain throughout the period. Seydler made a small loss due to low trading volumes and very limited capital markets activity."
Lastly, we have news of China investment Corporation (CIC) snapping up almost 9% of Thames Water. Thames Water is owned by a consortium of investors principally headed led by Australian bank Macquarie. There is no news of a purchase price yet.
The investment follows close talks with British politicians following a visit to China from George Osborne, a visit that had hoped to attract Chinese inward investment into British companies and infrastructure. Thames Water remains the largest water and sewage company in England and Wales in terms of customers served.