Updates from Qantas and Berkeley Group

Another dip for the FTSE 100, down -11.6 points to 6,498 yesterday. Petrofac gave away most, down 3.68% to 1152p with Tesco coming behind, down -2.01% to 333.15p. Shire was the Board's biggest riser, gaining 2.0% to 2707p.

The Dow Jones finished -0.43% down at 15,821 points. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
We kick off with a six-month interim from property player Berkeley Group: pre-tax profits climb 19.2% to £169.5m. Basic earnings per share is upped 22.0% to 100.0 pence (2012: 82.0 pence). However the operating margin is cut from 21.3% to 20.7%.

The Cobham-based housebuilder saw Numis Securities reissue their Add rating to the company earlier in the week. Berkeley has invested £315m in 10 new sites, including two in the London Docklands area, so far this year.

"This performance," says Berkeley chairman A.W.Pidgley, "maintains the Board's view that Berkeley is on course to meet the first milestone payment of £568 million by September 2015 and to return £1.7 billion in cash to shareholders no later than September 2021."

Next, an update from Lloyds which claims it has agreed the sale of a set of defaulted Irish retail mortgages to Tanager Limited, an entity affiliated to Apollo Global Management, LLC (NYSE:APO), for £257 million.

Lloyds says the offloading of the mortgages is part of the Group's asset reduction programme. The assets subject to the transaction are worth £610 million. This particular portfolio generated losses of £33 million in the year to 31 December 2012 says the bank.

"The sale proceeds," says Lloyds, "will be used for general corporate purposes and the transaction, although capital accretive, is not expected to have a material impact on the Group, due to existing provisions taken against these assets."

Lastly, Australian airline Qantas has had its credit rating snipped to Junk by ratings operator Standard & Poor's. The Junk rating is below investment level and will likely increase the airline's borrowing costs. Losses between July to December are reckoned to be in the A$300m region.

The Qantas turbulence comes hard behind an announced 1,000 jobs cut as well as a profits warning. The airline meanwhile has said it has a cash balance of A$2.8bn and has cut its debt levels substantially in the last year.

Qantas has been damaged not just by higher fuel costs but much-increased competition and, since the financial downturn, lower global demand.

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