Updates from Shell and AstraZeneca

The FTSE 100 climbed just three points higher yesterday, to 6,777. Next shares saw the biggest uplift, climbing +4.71% to 5450p with Experian tailing, up +3.25% to 1270p. The biggest loser was Standard Life, down almost 4% to 354.50p after sales growth stuttered. Pearson also fell sharply, down -3.59% to 1316p.

The Dow Jones slipped almost 62 points at close of business, to 15,618. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%A busy day for corporate heavyweights. We commence with Shell and a profits cut. Third quarter earnings slump from $6.2bn to $4.2bn across the Group due to higher exploring and maintenance costs, not to mention more subdued margins from the refinery end. Nigerian security issues continue to dog the company.

"Our cash flow," says boss Peter Voser, reassuring shareholders, "pays for Shell's dividends and investment in new projects to ensure affordable and reliable energy supplies for our customers, and to add value for our shareholders."

However Shell has blown around $5bn in the Arctic so far but without any completed wells. Huge investment - thought to be in the $24bn region - in Stateside gas and oil shale assets have yet to perform. (In contrast, French rival Total has been a considerably stronger performer.)

Next, pharma player AstraZeneca. Revenue in the third quarter dipped to $6,250m, down 4% at constant exchange rates (CER). Core operating profit in the third quarter is cut 29% CER to $2,027m while core earnings per share tumble 26%.

Reported EPS in the third quarter - down 16% to $0.99 - includes $0.18 per share benefit from the reversal of an intangible asset impairment related to Phase III clinical trials for olaparib says the company. But the late stage pipeline is strengthened by three new Phase III clinical programme starts.

"We continue to focus," says boss Pascal Soriot, "on the strategic priorities of returning to growth and achieving scientific leadership, and this is reflected in continued investment in our growth platforms and our pipeline. I am pleased with the progress we are making, particularly on the pipeline, with three regulatory filings."

Finally, Yorkshire chemicals operator, Croda International. Turnover is up 4.4% to £267.9m (2012: £256.5m) with underlying sales up 0.8%. Sales trends improved during the third quarter with growth across all regions despite subdued underlying market conditions the company claims.

In its Consumer Care division, sales were up 3.2% to £145.4m (2012: £140.9m) supported by volume growth and a better quality product mix, Croda claims. Personal Care sales improved with "strong sales" in Western Europe and North America but there were sales dips from the Middle East and Africa.

"With currencies continuing to weaken and market conditions expected to remain subdued, fourth quarter profits are likely to be similar to quarter three," says chairman Martin Flower. "Looking ahead, the Board remains confident that Croda's strategy will continue to deliver progress into 2014 and beyond."

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