Updates from Carpetright, Imperial Tobacco and Croda International


A bruising for the markets: stress about Spanish debt and the eurozone's future saw markets tumble yesterday. The FTSE 100 ended -2.09% down at 5,533, the biggest faller being Evraz, down -6.95%.

Despite the eurozone anxiety, better Chinese manufacturing news and HSBC data helped keep the Japanese Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng off earlier day lows.
Let's start with better news from high street bellwether Carpetright. Like-for-like UK sales increased 1.7% in the last quarter. However total sales in the UK declined 2.1% due to the reduction in the number of stores year on year.

In local currency terms, total sales for the rest of Europe (Netherlands, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland) was cut 5.2% with like-for-like sales down 6.3%. This translates to a total sales decline in Europe of 13.6%. Carpetright boss David Shapland says he's encouraged overall though.

"Excluding the expected decrease in sales from the wholesale business, our core UK retail business would have reported like-for-like sales growth of 5.3%. This reflects, in part, the success of self-help actions such as the development of our bed proposition, extension of our laminate range to more stores and the impact of our store refurbishment programme."

Positive news for Imperial Tobacco: sales growth surged with nine month revenues rising 3% for the nine months to 30 June. Imperial claims strong key strategic brand growth with net revenues up 13% and combined stick equivalent volumes rising 6%.

Chief exec Alison Cooper said she was particularly pleased "with the quality of the volume and revenue growth we're achieving with our key strategic brands Davidoff, Gauloises Blondes, West and JPS which now account for almost a third of our total stick equivalent volumes."

Outside the EU Imperial claims "excellent" performances from brands in Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East and Eastern Europe. However the US remains "very competitive"; their new senior management team "continues to refine our strategy to improve our performance, with a focus on building sales across our portfolio in key states."

Lastly, six monthly numbers from chemicals player Croda. Sales climbed +2.4% to £572.9m while operating profit lifts to £133.7m, a +6.7% surge on last year.

With stronger sales in the higher margin products, Croda's overall return on sales increased 23.3%. It experienced "strong demand" in most areas in North America while in Asia and Latin America it focused on higher margin differentiated products. Average prices increased 4.2%, primarily driven by price increases in Europe.

"These are a robust set of results," says chairman Martin Flower, "which have been achieved despite challenging trading conditions in Europe. Against strong 2011 comparatives and adverse currency translation, both core business segments made further progress."

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