Updates from Pearson, ABF and Domino's Pizza

Markets recovered some vim on Friday. The FTSE 100 leapt +0.70% to 6,335. CRH was the biggest riser, up +4.34% while GKN took the biggest hit, down -1.29%. In Europe, the French Cac 40 saw a +2.25% bounce while the Dow Jones climbed +0.86%.

Overnight, Japanese shares surge with the Nikkei hitting 11,662, up +2.43% and the Hang Seng rising +0.22%.
We begin with a trading update from Associated British Foods (AFB), owner of Primark. Sales at Primark in the first half were "exceptionally strong" claims ABF and expected to be 23% ahead of the same period last year and 25% ahead at constant currency, driven by robust like-for-like sales growth.

Primark operating profit margin was "much higher" than in the same period last year, reflecti lower cotton prices and better trading. Profit from Sugar in the first half will be lower than last year, ABF predicts. Poor growing conditions during 2012 resulted in a lower beet yield and sugar content.

In terms of groceries, "the worst UK harvest of recent years resulted in low volumes of wheat which was also of inferior quality but Allied Bakeries continued to produce high quality bread and recovered the higher cost through price increases," the company says.

Next, Pearson. The FT newspaper owner says full-year adjusted earnings per share slipped 3% to 84.2 pence, as predicted by the company earlier in January. Adjusted operating profits climb 1% higher to £936m; the dividend rises +7% to 45.0p.

Pearson claims "considerable" growth opportunity in education driven by a rapidly-growing global middle class and adoption of learning technologies, especially in emerging economies but market conditions are generally weak in the developed world and for print publishing businesses it says.

"We expect the FT Group," says Pearson, "to benefit from continued growth in digital and subscription revenues in 2013 but advertising to remain weak and volatile with profits reflecting further actions to accelerate the shift from print to digital."

Lastly, Domino's Pizza and record profits. Profit before tax, excluding Germany and Switzerland, rise 14.2% to £49.7m (2011: £43.6m) while profit before tax for Germany and Switzerland - where most stores tend to be corporate, non-franchise operations - climbs +10.8% to £46.7m (2011: £42.2m).

There's like-for-like sales growth of 5.0% in 612 UK mature stores (2011: 3.7% in 557 mature stores); online system sales increased 46.3% to £268.6m (2011: £183.6m). The final dividend is upped 16.2% to 7.90p per share (2011: 6.80p).

All good news, but Domino's acknowledged the recent UK spell of poor weather and widespread snow "had an adverse impact on trading. During these two weeks, we had a total of 498 stores closed at some point - almost two-thirds of our UK store network was impacted."

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