Updates from Morrisons, Whitbread and Go-Ahead Group

The FTSE 100 slipped -0.25% yesterday to 5,657 points. ITV was the day's biggest gainer, up +3.54% while Resolution Ltd saw the Board's biggest fall, down -5.14%.

Overnight, a measure of optimism washed across Asian indexes with the Nikkei up slightly; the Sydney ASX rose +0.73% higher. However the Hang Seng finished -0.10% down.
We start with Morrisons and a 0.9% like-for-like sales slip for the half year numbers up to 29 July. Pre-tax profits drop to £440m from £449m though underlying profits climb +1% to £445m. Turnover is up +2.3% to £8.9bn.

"With ongoing commodity inflation continuing to weigh on already fragile consumer confidence," says non-exec chairman Sir Ian Gibson, "and market conditions becoming ever more challenging, we have had to work even harder for our customers. Against this backdrop, Morrisons has increased sales and underlying earnings and delivered good dividend growth."

Morrisons says the tough economic environment and consumer pressures will keep the pressure up through the second half of this year and into 2013. "Notwithstanding these conditions, the Board believes the Group will meet its expectations for the year."

Next, hotel and restaurants player Whitbread. It claims a +4.2% climb in like-for-like sales for the 11 weeks up to 16 August. Premier Inn, Whitbread says, outperformed with total sales growth of 13.0%. The Costa coffee chain hauled home a +25.3% climb in total sales.

"Whitbread has continued to deliver good sales growth with total sales up +14.8% in our second quarter. Our brands have outperformed in a tough economic climate, with like for like sales growth of 4.2% and we have continued our network expansion at Costa and Premier Inn."

Whitbread recently poached Nicholas Cadbury from Premier Farnell, installing him as their new finance director, replacing Christopher Rogers.

Finally, bus and train operator Go-Ahead Group. Full-year profits before tax slip -3.5% to £94.2m. Revenues climb £126m to £2,423.8m though operating profit slips -4.9% to £110.2m. Go-Ahead has maintained its full year dividend at 81p.

"The Group's rail division," says chief exec David Brown, "performed well during the period, with strong operational performance across all three franchises and good passenger revenue growth, particularly in London Midland." But Southern has started to be impacted by the economic environment, the company acknowledged.

Go-Ahead claims bus fleet investment climbed to £80m. Despite the challenging economic environment, it says, the new financial year has started well and trading is in line with expectations.

Read Full Story