Updates from Stagecoach, Poundland and Marston's

Adrian Holliday
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, Poundland, Virgin, East Coast, Marston's
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, Poundland, Virgin, East Coast, Marston's

A diminutive 1.9 point drop for the FTSE 100 slipping to 6,729.1 on Wednesday. TUITravel and Smith&Nephew took the biggest hits, down 2.1% and 1.4% (to 417.50p and 1107p respectively) while there was better news for B&Q and Screwfix owner, Kingfisher, up 2.5% to 298.7p. BTGroup was also up strongly, climbing 2.1% to 404.40p.

Stock markets were similarly benign elsewhere with the Dow Jones climbing slightly again, to 17,827.7, a 12-point climb with robust gains from Pfizer and Intel.

We start with news that Stagecoach and Virgin - re-branding themselves as Inter City Railways, or ICR - will run the East Coast main line, paying the taxpayer £3.3bn to operate the franchise.

The franchise should see more than £140m invested in the service. Trains will operate under the 'Virgin Trains East Coast' brand. The line has been publicly owned since 2009; many transport campaigners hoped the line would remain in public hands.

The competition included FirstGroup and a joint bid between French operator Keolis and Eurostar. It's hoped journey times will be reduced by 14 minutes between London and Leeds. There should also be new direct services to Sunderland and Huddersfield.

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Next, numbers - rather more than £1 - from Poundland. Underlying results for the 26 weeks up to 28 September sees total sales climb 15.0% to £528.2 million (2013: £459.2 million).

Pre-tax profits climb 11.7% to £9.3 million (2013: £8.4 million). Poundland are issuing an interim dividend of 1.5 pence per share. Retail Park stores have now climbed to 72 (2013: 46).

"While our full year outcome, as always, is dependent on delivering a good Christmas for our customers," chief exec Jim McCarthy said, "I remain confident of further progress throughout the year."

Lastly, pubs playerMarston's. Underlying group revenue is up 1% to £787.6 million but underlying pre-tax profits tumble 3.6% to £83.0 million, reflecting disposals and a shorter trading period the company claim.

Average profit per pub is up 10% it says. The final dividend climbs 4.9% to 4.3p per share reflecting progress and confidence in its strategy Marston's says.

"There are some signs," says boss Ralph Findlay, "of modest economic improvement, with the emergence of real wage growth and resilience within the economic regions outside London."

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