Updates from Pearson and A.G. Barr

The FTSE 100 slipped almost eight points on Wednesday to 6,826.3. William Hill was the Board's biggest dipper, falling -3.88% to 341.60p. Sage Group though was the day's biggest climber, up +3.34% to 426.90p following a robust numbers update, not to mention some growth expectation.

The Dow Jones saw another slip, down 41 points to 16,373.3. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
We start with a trading update from Pearson. The publisher announces preliminary numbers in late February but now expects operating profit of approximately £865m before restructuring charges. Adjusted earnings per share of around 83p are anticipated.

The numbers are in line with previous guidance and reflects the accounting impact of the Penguin Random House merger and lower underlying margins in North American Higher Education, particularly in the important fourth quarter, says the company.

"Pearson made good progress on our strategic goals in 2013," says chief exec John Fallon, "but our trading and financial performance has been weaker than expected, particularly in North America." The importance in cutting its established cost base is underlined.

Next, an interim from energy operator SSE. It expects to deliver an increase in the full-year dividend anticipated to be around 3% - SSE's target is to deliver annual dividend increases while maintaining dividend cover over the medium term within a range of 1.5 times.

It also expects to increase adjusted profit before tax which, it claims, is in line with the consensus of analyst forecasts.

"The overall performance of the company has been solid in 2013/14," says CEO Alistair Phillips-Davies. "It is encouraging that SSE is on course to deliver real growth in the dividend and increases in adjusted earnings per share and adjusted profit before tax."

We end with a pre-close trading update from Tizer and IRN-BRU maker A.G. Barr. Barr anticipates total sales revenue in the final quarter to climb 5.5% on the back of strong sales momentum. Full year revenue should come in at around the £252 million, reflecting a year-on-year growth of circa 6.1%.

"This performance is particularly pleasing given the tough prior year comparatives which saw near double digit growth in the second half of last year," says the company.

The company will shortly be investing up to £12m in a strong multi-brand ad campaign in the run-up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games."

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