Updates from Morrisons and Home Retail Group

Another hit for shares yesterday. The FTSE 100 sank 0.97% to 6,620.9. G4S plunged 5.26% to 232.50p with Hammerson also heavily down - 3.93% - to 549.50p. There was better news though for Prudential, up 2.72%, on its Standard Chartered tie-up.

In the US, the Dow Jones trod water, down 0.07% to 16,340.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
The big news this morning is Morrisons and an annual loss of £176m compared to profits of almost £880m last year. A one-off £903m exceptional cost - property related - plus poor performance from Kiddicare, its baby products arm, were partly to blame.

However Morrisons says it has decided to take discounters Aldi and Lidl head on, with new price cuts and some line cutting. There's also a commitment to a 5% minimum increase in dividend for 2014/15 - and a progressive dividend after this.

With consumer confidence and market conditions continuing to be challenging says chairman Sir Ian Gibson, "'it has however been a period of significant strategic progress as we lay the foundations for a stronger future. Our financial position remains strong."

Next, Argos and and Homebase owner Home Retail Group and its final eight-week trading period for the financial year up to 1 March. Homebase sales rise 9.3% on a like-for-like basis to £203m while Argos sales climb 5.2% to £526m.

As a result of this recent trading performance, Home Retail Group now expects Group benchmark profit before tax to be slightly ahead of the top end of the current range of market expectations of £107m to £111m.

"Internet sales for the full-year represented 44% of total Argos sales," says the company, "up from 42% for the same period last year. Within this, mobile commerce sales grew by 89% to represent 18% of total Argos sales."

We end with an interim from Northgate. Vehicles on hire have risen by 1,100 during the period to 47,000 at 12 March 2014 from 45,900 at 31 October 2013. This compares to a fall of 900 in the same period last year.

The increase in vehicles on hire since 31 October 2013 includes growth of 600 vehicles from the six sites opened since February 2013, ahead of expectations says the company.

"Vehicles on hire continue to grow in the UK, with signs of stabilisation in Spain," reports the company. "The growth from the new sites opened is ahead of our expectations and we will continue to invest in new sites that provide the required levels of return.""

Read Full Story