Updates from BAT, Home Retail Group and Laird

Adrian Holliday
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100

Better news for the FTSE 100 yesterday with a 1.68% pick-up, ending at 6,372.3. In total a 105 point rise. Two travel players, TUI Travel and Carnival, led the shares recovery, up 4.73% and 4.50% respectively (to 365.70p and 2347p). Ashtead Group also rose strongly, to 4.27%. On the other hand, ARM Holdings sank more than 5% to 806p while Finish maker Reckitt Benckiser also showed pressure, down 2% to 5010p.

Across the water the Dow Jones lifted more than 1.30% to 16,614, up 215 points, helped by stronger earnings from Apple and better numbers from biotech.

We start with an interim from BAT. Revenues grew 2.4% at constant rates of exchange for the nine months to 30 September. However revenues declined 9.6% at current rates of exchange. Cigarette volume from subsidiaries are cut 1.0% to £495bn.

Growth from the Middle East, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Pakistan, Ukraine, Turkey and Indonesia offset lower volumes in Russia, Vietnam, Brazil, Poland and Canada, mainly driven by industry decline.

"Although currency movements," says chief exec Nicandro Durante, "impacted our reported results, the Group continues to perform well and we are on track to deliver another year of good earnings growth at constant rates of exchange."

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Sharpen Your Portfolio Plan for 2014 and Beyond
Sharpen Your Portfolio Plan for 2014 and Beyond

We move onto Argos and Homebase owner, Home Retail Group (HRG). HRG claims a good first half, with robust like-for-like sales growth. Sales increased by 3% to £2,669m; like-for-like sales climbed 2.9% at Argos, this was bettered by Homebase, up 4.1%.

Operating and distribution costs increased £15m to £951m; benchmark profit before tax increased 13% to £30.9m while basic benchmark earnings per share increased 20% to 3.0p.

"At this mid-way point in our financial year," says chief exec John Walden, "we continue to expect to deliver full-year benchmark profit before tax in line with current market expectations, however, as always the full-year outcome will depend upon the important Argos Christmas trading period.

Finally, an interim from tech player Laird from 1 July to 21 October 2014. Trading was in line with management expectations, with almost all businesses experiencing growth. Third quarter revenue in US dollars increased 15%.

Revenue for the third quarter totalled US$251 million (2013: US$218 million). In sterling, revenue totalled £150 million (2013: £141 million), a growth rate of 6%, after accounting for currency translation Laird claims.

"We have benefited from our strategy of investing in innovation, reliable fulfilment and speed," says chief exec David Lockwood. "We will continue to invest in both R&D and capacity to deliver sustainable long term growth. Our expectations for the full year remain unchanged."

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