Updates from Sainsbury's, First Group and Soco International

Adrian Holliday
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, Sainsbury's, First Group, Soco
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, Sainsbury's, First Group, Soco

The FTSE 100 continues to fall: Tuesday saw yet more pressure, down 36.2 points to 6,753.8 with Pearson giving away 2.4% to 1273p while AstraZeneca shares sank 2% to 4246p. Better news for RoyalMail investors as the former public service utility posted a 2.3% hike to 511.50p (though they recently slipped from 520p). Mondi meanwhile was up almost 2% to 1395p.

Stateside, the Dow Jones trod water, ending just 2.5 points down on the day; P&G shares climbed 1.5% though tech shares were largely down.

The big news this morning is Sainsbury's and a first quarter trading statement for the 12 weeks to 6 June. Total Retail sales for first quarter dip 0.6% (excl fuel), or down 2.3% (inc fuel). Like-for-like retail sales slump 2.1 per cent (excl fuel), down 3.7% (inc fuel).

Trading conditions are still being impacted by strong levels of food deflation and a highly competitive pricing backdrop says the retailer. But groceries online had a record week in the quarter with 256,000 orders.

"Despite the challenging market conditions," says Sainsbury's, "we are confident that we are building on strong foundations and making good progress with our strategy. We continue to invest in our broad range of products and services and our multiple channels to market."

Next we shift to First Group. Prelim numbers for the year see operating profit climbing 7.7% to £624.4m while profit before tax is up 46.5% to £163.9m. However revenues for the year are down almost 10% to £6.05bn. Earnings per share climbs from 7.5p to 9.8p, a 30.7% hike.

Overall trading for the Group remains in line with expectations, the company claims, with First Student and UK Bus change delivering margin improvements. There's was like-for-like passenger revenue growth of 6.7% from UK Rail.

"We intend to deliver further progress," says boss Tim O'Toole, "from our multi-year transformation plans in our 2015/16 financial year. We currently anticipate strong progression in our non-rail businesses."

We finish with an operations update from oil and gas production player Soco International. Production averaged 11.9 KBOEPD year to date through 31 May 2015. Production guidance for the full year 2015 is maintained at 10.5-12 KBOEPD.

Boss Ed Story says Soco is evaluating its African portfolio with a view toward further "rationalisation". An independent reserve audit has confirmed the company's reserves and contingent resources estimates released in March.

"As Brent," says Story, "seems to have found some stability around the $60-$65 per barrel mark, it is an appropriate time to evaluate the economic attractiveness of significant future project investments."

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