Updates from BHP Billiton, Supergroup and Travis Perkins

Most markets moved north yesterday, though the FTSE 100 gains were modest: just 0.06% higher, to 5,924 points. Polymetal International saw the largest gain of the day, up +2.67%, while Tullow Oil investors felt rather differently, with the stock plunging -8.4%.

The Dow Jones climbed +0.6% higher to 13,248. Overnight, the Japanese Nikkei saw a +0.59% gain to 9,606.
We commence with FTSE 100 miner heavyweight BHP Billiton which, in a statement to the Stock Exchange this morning, said it had signed an agreement with PetroChina International Investment (Australia) Pty Ltd to offload its 8.33% interest in the East Browse Joint Venture and 20% interest in the West Browse Joint Venture, located offshore Western Australia.

The deal is potentially worth US$1.63 billion says BHP Billiton. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and other customary conditions with completion likely in the first half of 2013.

"This is an excellent opportunity for both companies," said Billiton Petroleum chief exec J Michael Yeager, "PetroChina has acquired an interest in a world class gas resource and BHP Billiton has exited a non-strategic asset."

Next, a trading update from building materials supplier Travis Perkins for the 11 months to end of November 2012. Group turnover for the eleven months to end of November is up 1.6%, though this period included two more trading days in its merchanting and plumbing and heating divisions.

Trading conditions remain "difficult" with like-for-like sales for the Group "similar to those reported in October, with year-to-date like-for-like sales slightly lower at -1.8%, although our specialist Merchanting division has seen a small positive impact from the closure of a competitor."

The outlook remains unchanged and the company should meet consensus earnings per share plus achieve its net debt target of approximately £450m by end of year. Note that Travis Perkins director John Carter recently bought more shares in the company whose share price has edged up steadily since June.

New half-year interim numbers from fashion retailer SuperGroup. Group revenue climbs 16.2% to £158.2m with retail revenue up 26.4%; there's like-for-like sales growth of 3.9% (2011: 4.0%). International expansion continues with 37 franchise and licensed stores opened. The Internet, SuperGroup says, now represents 10.2% of Group revenue (2011: 8.2%).

However basic earnings per share slip almost -48% to 9.6p compared to 18.4p this time last year; underlying earnings though climb +8.5% to 12.7p.

"Although the trading environment has remained challenging and volatile, the Group's sales performance in the first half of the year has been encouraging," says chief exec Julian Dunkerton. "...it is clear that ongoing investment in design and the growing presence of the brand have enhanced sales both in the UK and overseas."

Finally, Northern Rock customers who had personal loans of less than £25,000 may receive an average of £1,775 each due to paperwork mistakes. It's thought up to 152,000 could be in line for compensation.

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