Updates from Sports Direct, Ocado and Whitbread

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

The pressure on the FTSE 100, not to mention elsewhere, continued on Wednesday. The Big Board ended the day 30 points lower at 6,500 exactly, -0.45% down. Petrofac and BGGroup saw 3.3% and 2.9% dips (to 717p and 872p respectively). However, one out-and-out winner: industrial rental player Ashtead Group soared almost 10% to 1175p on better profit expectations for the year - particularly improving US and UK trading conditions.

In the US, a certain amount of shock: the Dow Jones tumbled nearly 270 points - a 1.51% fall - to 17,533.1 on oil stocks concern. Boeing and Exxon were especially hard hit.

We kick off with new interim numbers fromSports Direct International. Underlying profit before tax climbs 9.8% to £160.6m while group revenues surge 6.5% to £1,432.9m. Net debt is upped to £186.5m from £212.0m.

Sports Direct says it's confident of hitting its full year 2015 EBITDA target; the search for a new finance director meanwhile continues, it says.

"The results," says boss Dave Forsey, "for the six months were solid considering the adverse impact on performance during the period of England's early departure from the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the unseasonably mild weather during Autumn reducing footfall."

We move on, next, to Costa-owner Whitbread. Sales for the 13 weeks to 27 November surge 13.2% for the pubs-to-cafes-to-restaurants player. For the 39 weeks to 27 November rise overall sales climbed 13.0%.

Premier Inn grew total sales grew 15.4% and like-for-like sales 8.5%. Costa pushed ahead with total sales growth of 17.0% and UK like-for-like sales growth of 5.2%.

Whitbread says it's still confident of full year numbers being in line with expectations, mindful that the fourth quarter last year was particularly strong, boosted by the absence of snow.

Finally, Ocado. The online grocer says group gross sales rose 18.6% to £331.9m for the 16 weeks to 30 November with average orders per week surging 16.4%. However the average order fell 1.7% from £111.64 to £109.74.

The new numbers means group sales overall for the full year climb 20.4% to £1,026.5m compared to £852.4m. Ocado shares have bounced back from a mid October 232p low to 334p (current price). However its shares sold for more than 600p in late February.

"We are pleased," says Ocado boss Tim Steiner, "with the continued steady growth in our business against the backdrop of a more competitive grocery market."

Breaking news: SuperGroup sales surge 8.4% to £208m for the six months to 25 October

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