Updates from National Grid, BSkyB and Diageo

A subdued 28-point drop for the FTSE 100 yesterday. It ended Wednesday at 6,544.2. William Hill took the biggest losses, down 3.08% to 330.50p with BSkyB also dropping 2.60% to 844.50p.

The Dow Jones meanwhile fell 1.19% to 15,738, not helped by more stimulus cutting noises from the Fed. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%

No shortage of news this morning. Let's commence with an interim from National Grid for the 1 October to 29 January period. "Strong" network performance across all businesses in "challenging" winter conditions is claimed.

Capital investment of around £3.5bn is expected to drive growth in asset values this year this income investor player (yielding around 5.4% currently) claims. In December, its US business separated its Long Island electricity transmission and distribution activities.

"We reconfirm," says chief exec Steve Holliday, "our positive outlook for 2013/14 - overall, we are well positioned to deliver another year of good operating performance and sustainable dividend growth."

Next, six month numbers from Smirnoff and Guinness owner Diageo. Operating profit climbs 2.9% while the interim dividend is up 9%. Net sales grew 1.8% in the first half, following growth of 2.2% in Q1 says Diageo.

Diageo claims robust US progress: marketing investment was up 5% and focused on key brands such as Guinness and Johnnie Walker plus "reserve" brands. Its price/mix drove gross margin expansion and overheads were reduced, resulting in an operating margin expansion of 1.3ppts.

"We do expect," says Ivan Menezes, chief exec, "some top line improvement in the second half and our focus across the business on the six key performance drivers means that even though some markets may remain challenging, this business is in good shape for the medium and long term."

Finally, BSkyB. Numbers for the last six months (up to 31 Dec) sees revenues climb 7.6% to £3,751m. Operating profit though slips 8% to £595m while basic earnings per share dips 3.5% to 27.3p from 28.3p. The dividend per share climbs to 12p from 11p.

Growth in paid-for products was up 42% year-on-year says BSkyB, while Sky Sports claims viewing is at its highest for six years. Sky has signed a new five-year deal for exclusive access to the HBO TV catalogue.

"In the last 12 months," says chief exec Jeremy Darroch, "we have added 3.8 million paid-for subscription products, the fastest rate of annual growth in three years. Customer demand in Q2 was strong across the board with good growth in all products."

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