Updates from Babcock, Wolseley and FirstGroup
Overnight, Australia snipped interest rates by -0.25%. Better news for Japan with a rise in manufacturing data, though the Nikkei only finished slightly 0.08% higher.
We commence with a trading statement from engineering player Babcock. Trading continues to be "positive" during the first half of the 2012/13 financial year and the company remains confident of delivering strong progress on last year.
Babcock's order book remains stable at around £13 billion, it's claimed. Across the divisions there has been a regular flow of smaller contract wins and extensions moving from the bid pipeline during the first half of the year, the company says.
"We continue to benefit from excellent visibility of future revenues and we enter the second half with circa 90% of the Group's anticipated revenue for the 2012/13 financial year currently contracted and over 50% for the 2013/14 financial year."
Next, building suppliers heavyweight Wolseley. Revenue for ongoing businesses climb 5.4% ahead of last year. Trading profit climbs to £658 million, 10.4% up. There's also a proposed final dividend of 40 pence bringing the total for the year to 60 pence, 33.3% up.
Wolseley has proposed a capital return of £350 million via a special dividend and share consolidation, which should cheer investors.
The company claims it remains highly cash generative "and we have adequate resources to fund future investment in the business alongside growth in ordinary dividends.balance sheet." Boss Ian Meakins says he's committed to more internal cost savings.
Lastly, FirstGroup. The FTSE 250 transport operator says trading in the first half of the year has been in line with its expectations. Its First Student bus service has made, it claims, good progress in addressing performance and strengthening its operating model the company says (though it remains work in progress).
Its UK Bus division is expected to deliver like-for-like passenger revenue growth of 2.5% in the period but "challenging economic conditions continue to impact a number of our urban operations". However operations in the North of England and Scotland saw improved revenue growth though volumes in the South remain under pressure.
Its UK Rail division achieved a further period of "solid performance" with
like-for-like passenger revenue expected to increase by 8.1%, the company says. All businesses excluding UK Rail include an extra week of trading, advises the company.