Updates from Poundland, Michael Page and British Gas

Adrian Holliday
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, British Gas, Poundland, Michael Page
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, British Gas, Poundland, Michael Page

The FTSE 100 came off the boil slightly on Monday, dipping 25 points to 7,064.3. BHP Billiton was the principal loser, down 3.2% to 1416p while Tesco shares also came under renewed pressure, down 2.6% to 244.30p. On the positive side Ashtead Group saw a 1.5% climb to 1093p while RBS pushed 1.2% higher to 353.20p. New research, released yesterday, suggested UK dividend payments will hit more than £86bn despite tough trading conditions for many.

The Dow Jones was rather more subdued, sagging 81 points to 17,977 as caution emerged on an up-coming rash of earnings, due later this week. GE shares lost more than 3%.

Let's commence with a trip to Poundland. Total sales for the last quarter, excluding Spain, pass the £1bn mark and are up 11.8% (2014: 12.7%) on a constant currency basis says the discounter to £1,111.5m compared to £997.8mn. Like-for-like sales are upped 2.4%.

Market expectations for underlying pretax profit for FY 2015 range between £42.0m and £44.6m, with the mean for consensus being £43.8 million says Poundland. A planned takeover of 99p Stores still awaits though.

"We expect," says Poundland boss Jim McCarthy, "to continue to deliver our growth strategy in the new financial year, notwithstanding some headwinds from a weaker Euro and a tough comparable in the first half."

Next, a trading update from recruiter Michael Page. Page reports 11% Group gross profit growth, with strong growth in all four major trading regions. However anticipated currency squalls lowered reported Q1 gross profit by £5m in total.

Strongest Page growth came from Southern Europe, up +29%, Germany climbed +29% while the UK returned 11% growth. However fee income in Brazil deteriorated 14%. Page claims a record headcount of 5,680.

Sterling remains strong and will says Page, "continue to impact our results. We remain focused on productivity and we continue to expect our reported Group conversion rate to improve at a similar rate of growth as that seen over the past couple of years."

Lastly, a new boss forBritish Gas. Mark Hodges is the new managing director. Hodges has a background in insurance and will start on a £625,000 base salary with potential of an annual bonus worth as much as 200% of his salary.

British Gas claims Hodges is experienced in working in a regulated environment and familiar with pushing improvements in customer service, innovation, major IT and change projects.

Centrica says Ian Peters, currently Interim Managing Director, British Gas, will remain with the company and take on the role of Director, Customer Facing Strategy.

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