Updates from Debenhams, Domino's Pizza and Persimmon

The FTSE 100's recent surge exhausted itself yesterday with the index slipping 25 points to 6,064, down -0.41%. The biggest riser, up +3.79%, was Barclays while National Grid was the biggest loser, down -2.39% on new price control worries from Ofgem.

Most markets were also down, with the German Dax sinking -0.56% to 7,732 while the French Cac 40 dipped -0.68% to 3,704.
It's a range of FTSE 250 players this morning. First, high street retailer Debenhams and strong Christmas numbers. Debenhams claims solid sales momentum with 18 weeks like-for-like sales up 2.9% and like-for-like sales rising 5% for the five weeks up to 5 January.

Online sales came in ahead of expectations: for the 18 weeks to 5 January sales were up 39% the same period last year. As a result, Debenhams now expects gross margin for the year to be 10 basis points higher than last year, rather than 20 basis points as previously suggested.

"We continue to believe," says chief exec Michael Sharp, "that whilst consumers have become acclimatised to the new economic reality, we don't anticipate a significant change in consumer confidence in the remainder of the year."

Next, Domino's Pizza. Sales for the 14 weeks to 30 December increased 20% to £174.5m (2011: £145.4m for 13 weeks). Like-for-like sales in 612 UK mature stores grew 5.0% (2011: 4.2% in 557 stores for 13 weeks), while like-for-like sales in 47 mature stores in the Republic of Ireland were down in Euros by 3.8%.

The company says sales for the 53 weeks ending 30 December 2012 increased 12.7% to £598.6m (2011: £531.0m for 52 weeks). Like-for-like sales, for the year, in UK stores grew 5.0% (2011: 3.8% for 52 weeks) while stores in the Republic of Ireland slipped in Euros by 0.2%.

Online Domino's sales soar with e-commerce sales for the last 13 weeks up 56.6% to £84.1m (2011: £53.7m) for the UK and Ireland and online sales for the year up 46.3%. "We are excited by the positive signs in Germany and the Group as a whole is well-placed for further growth," says chief exec Lance Batchelor.

Finally, a trading statement from house builder Persimmon. The volume of new homes completed increases 6% over the prior year to 9,903 (2011: 9,360), claims the builder. There's an average selling price of £173,400 (2011: £163,999), 6% ahead of last year while revenues for the period totalled £1.72 bn (2011: £1.54 bn), an increase of 12%.

Margin improvement remains a key part of strategy, says Persimmon, with the medium term aim of returning to underlying operating margins within the range of 15% to 17%.

"We believe we have made further encouraging strides towards achieving this objective through the launch of new sites offering attractive returns and exercising firm control over our costs." It adds: "We have successfully opened all 60 new sites scheduled for the second half of the year and are currently selling from 375 sites."
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