Updates from Lloyds, Hammerson and William Hill

The FTSE 100 climbed 35 points to 6,360 on Thursday. International Consolidated Airlines Group was the biggest gainer, up +7.89%. But an even bigger loss, going in the other direction, for Kazakhmys, down -8.57%.

Overnight, disappointing manufacturing data dragged Asian shares down though the Nikkei climbed higher, currently up +0.41%.
The heavyweight corporate news this morning is Lloyds. The bank, 41% funded by the taxpayer, has announced a £570m pre-tax loss, not helped by having to provide £1.8bn for mis-selling accusations. Take out the mis-selling claims and underlying pre-tax profit leaps from £638m to £2.6bn.

The numbers won't stop Lloyds paying £365m in staff bonuses, plus a deferred share award to chief exec Antonio Horta-Osorio, worth almost £1.5m. There's increasing speculation that, should shares in the bank climb to 61p (currently 53p), the Government may be minded to unload its stake, breaking even. However, there is still a lack of clarity on its Libor fine exposure.

"The substantial progress we made in 2012 means that we are now ahead of our plan to transform the group, and this was reflected in our stronger underlying financial performance in the year," said Antonio Horta-Osorio in Lloyds' annual numbers statement.

Next, final numbers for retail property operator Hammerson. Hammerson claims growth of 2.1% for like-for-like net rental income demonstrating, it claims, continued tenant demand for properties with an occupancy rate of 97.7%. The dividend rises +7.5% to 10.0p from 9.3p bringing the total dividend for the year of 17.7 pence per share (2011: 16.6 pence).

Hammerson claims "significant" development progress with land purchase and commitment to proceed at Le Jeu de Paume, Beauvais; JV signed with Westfield to develop Centrale and Whitgift in Croydon; Les Terrasses du Port, Marseille now 83% let it says; John Lewis is also signed to anchor Eastgate Quarters, Leeds.

"2012 was a transformational year for Hammerson," says chief exec David Atkins, "where we successfully executed over £1 billion of investment activity to become a pure retail-focused company. Looking forward, our visibility of the future earnings profile of the business gives us confidence."

Lastly, full-year numbers from bookie William Hill. Profits after tax surges +56% to £231.0m and earnings per share climbs +62.% to 27.0p. Group net revenue is up 12% and operating profit climbs 20% to £330.6m with "outstanding" performance from William Hill Online.

William Hill is also splurging £424m to take control of its online business, buying out partner Playtech. The move will see it raise around £375m via a rights issue to fund it, hard on the heels of agreeing to snap up the Spanish and Australian arms of Sportingbet.

"William Hill Online has consistently delivered strong net revenue growth since it was formed in December 2008," says chief exec Ralph Topping. "Having been advised of the valuation of Playtech's 29% interest, the Board has concluded that it is in the best interests of our shareholders to exercise our call option to assume full ownership of this attractive, high growth, high performing business."

Read Full Story