Updates from National Grid, Carpetright and PZ Cussons

The FTSE 100 breached the 6,300 barrier yesterday - the first time since late Spring 2008 - but ended Monday at 6,294.4. Barclays was the biggest individual riser, up +1.71% while Evraz saw the heaviest stumble, down -2.10%.

Overnight, Asian markets powered ahead on earnings optimism. The Japanese Nikkei climbed +0.5% though Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended -0.2% down.
We commence this morning with a National Grid update. The utility has confirmed its positive outlook for 2012/13 - well positioned to deliver another year of good operating and financial performance, it claims. US regulatory filings are proceeding smoothly it says.

"Our businesses made further progress toward delivering our priorities for the year, underpinned by good financial performance," says ceo Steve Holliday. "Sustained investment in transmission and distribution infrastructure, combined with a strong focus on efficiency has resulted in another solid operational performance."

However investors will need to be aware that despite the decent current dividend, there are longer term question marks over National Grid dividend policy. (National Grid is also highly geared with borrowings of £20bn plus.)

Next, high street bellwether Carpetright, and positive UK numbers for the third quarter. Carpetright says like-for-like sales in the UK increased +3.2% with total sales up by +1.6%. The store base was clipped by four during the period to 476, of which 122 have now been modernised.

Not so good for Europe where in local currency terms, like-for-like sales in Rest of Europe (Netherlands, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland) slumped -11.5%. Total sales declined -11.2% the company says.

"The Group result for the year to date is in line with management's expectations," says chief exec Darren Shapland, "and whilst trading conditions remain challenging, we have good momentum in our self-help initiatives. That said, as ever, our performance in the final quarter will be critical to the outcome for the year as a whole."

Lastly, personal care player PZ Cussons, maker of Carex and Original Source. There's little change in overall half-yearly revenue, up +0.2% to £414.8m. However operating profit soars +13.0% to £45.3m thanks to improved performance in Australia and a robust performance in UK says PZ Cussons.

There's encouraging performance from UK Washing and Bathing divisions across Imperial Leather, Carex and Original Source. Growth remains stickier in Europe and Asia, offset by decline in Africa as a result of tough trading conditions, particularly in Nigeria says the company.

"Construction of the palm oil refinery in Nigeria with our partner Wilmar," says chairman Richard Harvey, "has recently been completed and this exciting new venture will begin to operate in the second half. Our balance sheet remains strong and we have the appetite to pursue further investment opportunities which fit our strategic aims."

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