Updates from Burberry, Vedanta and FirstGroup

A +0.79% rebound for the FTSE 100 yesterday, finishing at 5,884 points. Resolution Ltd was the biggest gainer, up +6.96% while Babcock saw the heaviest fall, down -3.49%.

Overnight, President Obama's victory saw Asian stock markets remain steady with the Nikkei down just -0.03% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed slightly, up +0.25%.
First off, fashion and fragrance player Burberry, which has been recently hit by sales growth worry in Asia. Pre-tax profits are slashed -30% to £112m for the six months up to the end of September though first-half year revenues climbed +6% to £883m. The result though is better than some had forecast.

A £73.8m charge related to the ending of Burberry's fragrance and beauty licence relationship with French company Interparfums also hits the pre-tax profits figure. But growth slumps to +5% in the second quarter compared to 11% in the previous quarter.

"In retail/wholesale, which accounts for over 90% of our business, Burberry delivered 7% revenue growth," said Angela Ahrendts, chief exec, "11% profit growth and a further improvement in operating margin, all in a challenging external environment."

Next, Vedanta. First half-year profits climb to $171.2 million compared to $27.8 million a year ago. Revenue climbs +14% to $7.5bn while underlying earnings per share increases +40% to $0.97.

Net debt is marginally lower at $9.8bn compared to $10.0bn at 31 March 2012, with $7.2bn of cash and liquid investments and $3.1bn in undrawn lines of credit claims the company. However Vedanta has been affected by uncertainty over iron ore production recently.

"Growth rates in emerging markets seem to have softened," says Vedanta, "from the highs of the last decade, but remain firmly in the positive territory with fundamental demand drivers (industrialisation and urbanization) still intact."

Lastly, half-year numbers from FirstGroup. The transport operator says trading during the first half of the year is in line with expectations. Revenue climbs +2.6% to £3,250m while underlying operating profit slumps -21% to £128.7m. However pre-tax profits slip almost -94% to just £8.4m.

Given the furore over competition for the InterCity West Coast line, FirstGroup says it's holding the interim dividend at last year's level, and will consider the appropriate level for the full year dividend in May 2013.

"The Group is in a period of transition," says chief exec Tim O'Toole, "and while there is significant work still to do, we are satisfied with the progress of the actions we have taken so far, though we remain cautious in respect of
the continued economic weakness."

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