Updates from Asda, Castleton Technology and NextEnergy Solar Fund

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

A -1.3% fall for the FTSE 100 on Tuesday, down 86.5 points to 6,547.0, despite some positive trading news for Next (up 3.2% to 6,725p). Reversing previous gains, RoyalMail shares slumped 3.5% to 426.6p while Weir Group shares lost 3.1% to 1866p. SABMiller was another big loser with shares down 2.8% to 3313p. At year end the FTSE 100 remains some way off its 6,930 peak (30 December 1999).

A more sober mood also infected US stocks with the Dow Jones down 55 points to 17,983, as investors mulled declining (again) oil prices and the appointment stalling of a new Greek president; both Caterpillar and Intel took hits.

We start with some anxiety from Asda. Boss Andy Clark has told the BBC that retail profitability is going to be, very likely, as difficult in 2015 as it was in 2014 thanks to the on-going pressure from discounters like Aldi.

"The level of profitability decline," Clarke told the corporation, "in some retailers over the course of 2014 - we've never seen it before," said Mr Clarke. "It suggests 2015 is going to be equally as challenging."

Asda's market share was clipped 1% in the last three months according to Kantar Worldpanel. Around 20% of UK shoppers were predicted to spend a significant chunk of their Christmas budget at a Lidl or Aldi, rather than in a Morrisons, Sainsbury's - or Asda.

Next, software services player Castleton Technology has released unaudited interim numbers for the six months to 30 September 2014. Profit for the period comes in at £0.03 million (H1 2013: £26.4 million).

The Group results for the six months include the performance of Montal, an outsourced IT managed services business, for the period post acquisition as 'continuing' operations, plus performance from its ABS business.

"The Group," says chairman David Payne, "is ideally placed to build upon the foundations now in place via further complementary acquisitions and the good organic growth prospects we see in the sector."

Lastly, NextEnergy Solar Fund (NESF) announces the signing of a share purchase agreement to acquire a special purpose vehicle for the Boxted Airfield solar power plant project based in Essex for up to £20.6m.

The plant will be constructed under an Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract negotiated by NESF's Investment Manager, NextEnergy Capital Limited.

NESF has now secured eleven assets with a total investment value of around £145 million (approx 79% of equity proceeds raised to date, it says).

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