Pick of the early market news

Stock markets were rocked yesterday by political uncertainty as Dutch PM Mark Rutte quit and Francois Hollande's edged Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the French election. The FTSE 100 plunged -1.85% - the biggest faller was Old Mutual with a -14.39% drop - while the German Dax tanked -3.36%.

Overnight in Asia, the Nikkei Stock Average lost 1.1% while the Hang Seng slipped 0.4%.
We commence with an interim from business process outsourcer Capita. Capita claims "an encouraging start" to 2012 with Q1 turnover 17% ahead of Q1 2011 - mainly due to additional revenue from acquisitions undertaken during 2011 plus progress across the Group's businesses.

Capita claims a successful period in bidding for new contracts, winning a total of £900m major sales opportunities in the first 16 weeks of the year (full year 2011: £2.0bn). The bid pipeline remains strong, particularly across the central and local government markets it says.

"Major contracts won and acquisitions completed in 2011 and to date this year provide us with good visibility of stronger revenue growth in 2012," said Capita in a statement. "This visibility and the current buoyant sales environment underpin our confidence in good growth prospects and performance for 2012 and beyond."

Next, chip designer ARM. First quarter pre-tax profits climb to more than £51m compared to £30.4m in the previous comparable quarter. Quarterly IFRS earnings per share climb to 2.71p compared to 1.57p.

"In the first quarter of 2012," says chief exec Warren East, "we saw continuing demand for technology licenses driven by a remarkable variety of end markets from highly efficient servers to energy-sipping sensors. ARM's royalty revenues continued to outperform the overall semiconductor industry as our customers launch their products into new markets."

Whilst Q1 industry shipments declined sequentially, most analysts expect the industry to recover in the second half, the company claims. "In that context, ARM expects that group dollar revenues for the full-year 2012 will be in line with current market expectations."

Lastly, ABF Foods: first half-pre-tax profits climb to £329m compared to £319m this time last year; a 3.1% lift. Revenues expanded to £5.7bn compared to £5.21bn this time last year. Adjusted profit before tax is 3% higher - £363m - while adjusted earnings per share climbed 5% to 34.4p. Dividends per share lift 8% to 8.5p.

"The group delivered good growth in revenue and profit," said chief exec George Weston. "AB Sugar and Primark both performed strongly, demonstrating continuing momentum. We expect substantial growth in both adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share for the group for the full year."

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