Updates from M&S, Homeserve and AstraZeneca

savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100 AstraZeneca, M&S HomeserveMore cheer for the FTSE 100 on Thursday, up 42.7 points to 6,796.4 as emergency liquidity made it to Greece. Weir Group rose 4.2% to 1661p while Pearson saw a 2.8% climb to 1263p. SmithsGroup and AshteadGroup also saw strong gains. More oil price pressure was a downer though for BP and Fresnillo, both down almost 1.2%.

US stocks also lifted robustly with the Dow Jones up 70 points to 18,120.2 with Microsoft up 2% and IBM up 1.5%. There was also second quarter earnings gains for eBay and Netflix; Google profits climbed 17%.

First off this morning, M&Sand the news that the head of the company's struggling clothes business, John Dixon, is to go. Steve Rowe, currently boss of Food, will take on Dixon's job and Andy Adcock, currently Trading Director, Food, replaces Rowe.

M&S has consistently struggled to improve - specifically womenswear - its general merchandise business. Recently the sector saw sales dip again despite a bump in sales in the previous quarter.

M&S claims Rowe has been instrumental for Food's performance in a "challenging market". "On behalf of the Board," says M&S chair Robert Swannell, "I would like to thank John for his service over many years and his many contributions to the business in that time."

We shift attention next to Homeserve. No shocks here. Group trading is in line with expectations it claims and expects to deliver "good" growth in 2016. As with previous years, the majority of marketing activity will be second half weighted it advises.

Its UK business is performing as planned with claimed good retention and marketing performance. As anticipated, it had 2.1m customers at the end of June 2015. In the US Homeserve claims good customer growth with stable retention.

Subject to shareholder approval at today's AGM, Homeserve expects to pay a special dividend of 30p per existing ordinary share on 24 July 2015.

Lastly, pharma giant AstraZeneca says it has reached agreement with Tillotts Pharma AG, part of the Zeria Group, for the divestment of global rights, outside the US, to Entocort, a gastroenterology medicine for patients with mild to moderate Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Tillotts paid AstraZeneca $215m for the rights to sell and develop Entocort capsules and enema formulations outside the US. The transaction does not include the transfer of any AstraZeneca employees or facilities, AstraZeneca says.

The pharma player will no longer retain an interest in the ex-US rights to Entocort and the upfront receipt will be reported in Other Operating Income in the Company's financial statements for 2015. The transaction does not impact AstraZeneca's financial guidance for 2015, the company claims.

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