Pick of the early market news

Steep falls yesterday on Eurozone stress. The FTSE 100 fell -1.78% to 5,554 points. Biggest fallers were Polymetal Int (down -8.66%) and Fresnillo (down -7.44%). The French Cac 40 was badly hit, sinking -2.78%.

Overnight, Asian stocks suffered with the Japanese Nikkei down 1.5% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 down 1.1%.
We start this morning pushing a grocery trolley. Sainsbury's claims an uplift in sales and market share, despite profits taking a hit. Pre-tax profits up to 17 March have tumbled to just under £800m compared to £827m a year ago. But underlying profits climbed 7% to £712m and its 16.6% market share is its highest for a decade, claims the grocer.

Total sales (inc VAT) climbed 6.8% to £24,511 million (2010/11: £22,943 million) with total sales (inc VAT, ex fuel) up 4.5%; like-for-like sales (inc VAT, ex fuel) were up 2.1%.

Sainsbury's board recommends a full year dividend of 16.1p, an increase of 6.6%, covered 1.75 times by underlying earnings. "The Board plans to increase the dividend each year and now intends to build cover to two times over the medium term."

Next, Sage Group. Half-year pre-tax profits have climbed 3% and Sage claims its buoyed by stronger underlying performance. Revenue for the six months ended March 31 came to £673.1 million (2011: £670.4 million) while pretax profits came in at £167.1 million (2011: £162.8 million).

Subscription revenues, says Sage, continue to deliver good growth and there are 129,000 new paying customers added (H1 2011: 131,000). There's also a 81% renewal rate on support contracts maintained "reflecting high quality customer service and value-added features," though this renewal rate is unchanged since this time last year.

"We have delivered a resilient performance in the first half of the year," said chief exec
Guy Berruyer. "The inherent strengths of the business are evident in our ability to attract new customers, our strong customer renewal rate and our continued high cash generation."

Finally, ITV. In an interim ahead of its AGM today, ITV claims external revenues are up £65m (13%) to £565m (2011: £500m) for Q1 driven by non-net advertising (NAR) revenues.

ITV Studios performed "strongly" both in the UK and internationally - particularly in the US - with an encouraging number of new commissions. ITV Studios revenues rose by 61% in Q1 to £212m.

However ITV Family NAR was down 1% in Q1. "While the underlying television advertising market continues to be broadly flat, we expect ITV's ad revenue to be up around 3% in H1, helped by Euro 2012. Going forward we expect to outperform the TV ad market in H1 and for the year as a whole," said the company.

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