Updates from Sainsbury's, SSE and AMEC

The FTSE 100 climbed +0.33% yesterday to 5,786, 20 points higher. ITV was the biggest riser, up almost +9% while Anglo American saw the most sustained fall, down -3.15%.

Markets remained broadly in positive territory across Europe but the Dow Jones fell -0.46% to 12,756. Overnight the Nikkei climbed +0.04% to 8,664 points.
We kick off with six-monthly numbers from energy giant SSE - formerly known as Scottish & Southern Energy. Profits before tax soar 38.3% to £385.5m while the interim dividend per share climbs 5% to 25.2p. However SSE has taken flak for its recent round of price hikes, rising 9% in some cases.

Sensitive to criticism of huge profits and price rises, SSE chairman Lord Smith put the emphasis on jobs this morning. "While some observers may choose to criticise SSE for making a profit and paying a dividend, I believe that profit and dividend allow SSE to employ people, pay tax, provide services that customers need, make investments that keep the lights on and create jobs..."

Additionally, SSE claims prices achieved for generating electricity have been weak; higher gas and non-energy costs were part of the reason why energy prices rose recently, it claims.

Next, Sainsbury's. The grocer claims underlying half-year profits were higher than anticipated with underlying profits before tax in the 28 weeks to September 29th climbing 5.4% to £373m compared to £354m a year ago. Like-for-like sales (inc VAT, ex fuel) climbed 1.7%; overall half-year pre-tax profits hit £405m.

Sainsbury's claim they've increased market share to 16.7%, the highest for nearly a decade, completing 31 consecutive quarters of like-for-like sales growth. Total sales (inc VAT, ex fuel) climbs 4.1%. The underlying operating margin is unchanged (up 1 basis point at constant fuel prices).

"We have grown," said chairman David Tyler, "our underlying basic earnings per share to 15.2 pence, return on capital employed remains unchanged at 10.9% and our interim dividend is 4.8 pence per share, up 6.7%."

Lastly, AMEC. In an interim the engineering and project management player claims its order book has risen to £3.6 billion (October 2011: £3.3 billion) with the integration of two acquisitions year-to-date on track. Approximately £300 million of shares have been purchased under £400 million share buyback programme.

Mining activity though is slowing but conventional oil and gas activity is strong, particularly in the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico it says where work continues on a number of projects. AMEC guidance remains unchanged from that notified with the interim results.

"Demand for our services and investment in our end markets remain good, despite the on-going economic uncertainty," says chief exec Samir Brikho. "Our new, more agile structure will open up additional opportunities across customers, markets and geographies, which will support further growth."

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