Updates from Smiths Group and Close Bros

A sharp tumble for the FTSE 100: the index plunged -2.10% yesterday, slipping almost 144 points to 6,696 following negative comment from the head of the US Federal Reserve, plus worrying China manufacturing numbers. Aggreko was the worst hit, down -5.59%.

Overnight, Japan's Nikkei 225 plunged more than -3% as trading nerves continued.
First, an interim from technology player Smiths Group. In the nine months to 4 May Smiths says it saw underlying revenue expand across all divisions with underlying headline operating profit ahead of the same period last year.

Headline operating margin improved in all divisions bar Smiths Medical which invested substantially more in sales and marketing in higher growth markets and incurred additional expense from the US medical device tax, says the company.

Overall, expectations for the year remain in line with the outlook given at the interim numbers in March, albeit with a slightly different mix by division. At 4 May, net debt was £891m, up from £855m at 31 January, reflecting the interim dividend pay-out and tough foreign exchange gusts.

Next, an interim from Close Brothers Group. Close claims its Banking division saw its loan book increase to £4.5bn, up +9% year to date; Winterflood, its securities arm, has seen an improvement in trading volumes and Assets under Management increase +4% to £9.2bn.

The banking loan book is upped +2% to £4.5bn (31 January 2013: £4.4bn), driven by growth in motor finance and the Commercial businesses. Growth remains solid "but slightly lower than last year" due to a moderation in demand in some of its markets.

But while trading volumes have increased "Winterflood has not yet seen a sustained improvement in retail investor risk appetite," Close says, "particularly in the AIM and small cap sectors, but remains well positioned to benefit as conditions improve."

Finally, chemicals maker Croda says it has completed its acquisition of the Specialty Products business of Arizona Chemical based in Jacksonville, Florida. Croda claims the acquisition should expand its footprint in polymers.

"This acquisition represents further progress in our strategy to acquire complementary new technologies," says Keith Layden, Croda's Chief Technology Officer. "The varied functionality of these specialised polyamides will be a valuable addition to our offerings across both the Consumer Care and Performance Technologies market sectors."

No manufacturing assets will be acquired as part of the buy. Morgan Stanley reissued an overweight rating on Croda International (LON: CRDA) in a research report issued in mid May.
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