Updates from Unilever, Sage Group and WH Smith

The FTSE 100 ended Tuesday 1.81 points down at 6,179. BG Group was the biggest riser of the day, up +2.28% while miner Fresnillo saw a -2.82% contraction, the biggest overall dip.

Overnight, Japanese shares sank after moves by the Bank of Japan saw the yen lift. The Nikkei 225 consequently took a -2.08% hit while the Hang Seng moved lower also.
The biggest player today is undoubtedly Unilever. The Brit-Dutch personal care player has declared full-year numbers including fourth quarter figures. Turnover is cranked +10.5% higher for the full year to €51.3bn with a +9% climb in operating profit to €7bn. Net profit comes in +7% higher at €4.9bn.

Underlying sales growth has come in at +6.9%. There's volume growth of +3.4% and price growth of +3.3%. For the fourth quarter, underlying sales expanded 7.8% with volume growth of 4.8% and price growth of 2.9%.

"We have reported," says boss Paul Polman, "another quarter of good quality, profitable growth ahead of our markets. All categories and all geographies grew with a good overall balance between volume and price. Emerging markets again contributed double-digit growth helping us exceed €50 billion turnover."

Next, an interim from Sage Group. Trading across all regions remains in-line with expectations at the time of full year 2012 numbers, revealed in early December. The UK and Ireland business demonstrated fair growth in the first quarter, but conditions in mainland Europe remain challenging.

Stronger North American trading performance reported for the second half of 2012 has continued in the first quarter, Sage claims, with its Brazilian business delivering decent growth and progress in particular. However Southern Europe, especially Spain and France, remains a concern.

"Economic conditions for our customers," says chief exec Guy Berruyer, "are challenging across our markets and we remain particularly watchful of the uncertain market environment in mainland Europe. However, the strong fundamentals of our business model and our continued progress in executing against our strategy underpin our confidence in the future."

Lastly, a trading statement from WH Smith. The stationery-to-books-to magazines player claims "good profit performance" in the 20 weeks to 20 January 2013 with margins well managed and costs tightly controlled. However total sales slumped 4% with like-for-like (LFL) sales down 5% for the 20 weeks.

On the High Street, total sales dipped 5% with LFL sales down 5% for the 20 weeks. Gross margin improved strongly in the period in line with plan and costs were tightly managed, reflecting trading conditions, WH Smith claims.

"We expect the," said chief exec Kate Swann, "trading environment to remain challenging however we are a resilient business with a consistent record of both profit growth and cash generation, and are confident in making further progress in the year."

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