Updates from Next and House of Fraser

A 31-point drop for the for FTSE 100 yesterday, slipping -0.46% to 6,717. Sage Group saw the biggest fall, down -2.38% to 394.1p while Randgold Resources saw a robust +3.80% climb to 3934p. Hargreaves Lansdown also climbed strongly, up +3.77% to 1,405p.

The Dow Jones fell heavily on the first day of new year trading, slipping -0.82% to 16,441, a -135.3 point descent. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
We start with strong trading from Next. Sales in the fourth quarter are "significantly ahead" of expectations - 1.25% ahead of the top end of guidance it gave in October. Total online and store sales climb 11.9% for the retailer.

Next is consequently hiking its profit forecast range to the £684m-£700m region. A combination of profit growth, share buybacks and lower corporation tax should result in growth in underlying EPS of between 21% and 24% it says.

A special dividend of 50p per share will be paid. "This £75m cost approximates to the cash we would have used for buybacks in the period October 2013 to January 2014. This dividend will be paid on 3 February."

Sticking to the high street, privately owned House of Fraser says like-for-like store sales climbed 4.3% in the first nine weeks of the last quarter. Sales in the three weeks to December 27 pushed 7.3% higher.

Online sales surged more than 55% in the three-week run up to Christmas. Currently House of Fraser is engaged in take-over talks with Galeries Lafayette.

Alongside, there is also potential LSE flotation ambitions. However the high street sales environment is troubled, witness recent heavy discounting from Debenhams. House of Fraser also has significant pension and debt liabilities.

Finally, NMC Health, a private sector healthcare provider operating across the United Arab Emirates, has issued a trading update. NMC expects to report results in line with expectations for the twelve months up to 31 December 2013.

Net debt position, capital expenditure and operational cash flow are also in line with expectations. Projects including the Dubai Investment Park General Hospital are progressing towards their opening dates NMC says.

"Management," says Dr B.R.Shetty, chief exec," will continue to work towards increased efficiencies and operational gearing in existing operations and a smooth introduction of new assets."

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