Updates from Serco and AstraZeneca

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Another leap for the FTSE 100 yesterday, climbing +1.2% to 6,243 after hitting a five-month low of 6,029 at the start of the week. Advertising agency WPP was the biggest riser of the day, up +4.5% while RBS endured the biggest sell-off, down -1.6%.

Across the water the Dow Jones broke past the 15,000 barrier again, up 0.77%, while overnight the Nikkei 225 surged +3.44%.
A subdued end to the week in terms of corporate news. In a pre-close trading statement, Serco claims the Group is on track for a "modest" improvement in the rate of organic revenue growth with the adjusted operating margin broadly maintained around the level achieved in 2012.

"This is driven," it says, "in part by last year's record level of contract awards, many of which only started part way through last year, together with additional revenue from certain volume-related and project-basedwork."

The effect of last year's acquisitions and disposals has a broadly neutral impact on total revenue growth, Serco claims. Serco had its Overweight rating affirmed by JP Morgan Cazenove in a research note earlier in the week.

Next, an MoD contract win for Ultra Electronics. Ultra says its Communication and Integrated Systems (CIS) business based in Greenford has been awarded a £14m contract extension to its End Cryptographic Unit Replacement Programme (ECURP).

ECURP Ultra will provide the MOD with a high grade cryptographic capability which supports modern modes and key delivery whilst being interoperable with legacy devices to maintain operational availability, according to the release from the company.

"The award of the system integration contract to Ultra ensures that the UK MoD will realise the early benefits of a modern high grade cryptographic estate," says chief exec Rakesh Sharma.

Finally, AstraZeneca says it has completed its acquisition of Pearl Therapeutics, a privately held company based in Redwood City, California, focused on the development of inhaled small-molecule therapeutics for respiratory disease.

AstraZeneca has snapped up 100% of Pearl's shares. The acquisition, it says, gives the company access to a potential new treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), currently in late-stage development, and inhaler and formulation technology that provides a platform for future combination products.

AstraZeneca had its Neutral rating re-stated by Zacks in a report published at the start of the week.

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