Updates from Pearson and Homeserve

The FTSE 100 ended 32 points down yesterday at 6,587. Shire was the day's biggest climber, up +5.50% to 2339p with Rolls Royce Holdings close behind, up +5.08% to 1240p. In the other direction, GKN saw the biggest tumble, down -4.19% to 326.80p.

Overnight, a strengthening of the Japanese yen saw stocks skid with the Nikkei down -2.97%.
We start with disappointment from FT publisher Pearson with adjusted earnings slumping by more than 30% for the first half of the year. Somewhat more than the City had been expecting. Adjusted earnings per share slip 5p to 9.9p, including restructuring charges. The interim dividend climbs +7% to 16p.

On the upside, sales climb +5% at constant exchange rates (+2% underlying growth) to £2.8bn with good growth in Education (up +3%) led by North America (up +5%) and developing markets.

"In trading terms," says chief exec John Fallon, "2013 has begun much as we expected. In general, good growth in our digital, services and developing-market businesses continues to offset tough conditions for traditional publishing."

Next, a half-yearly update from gas operator BG Group. Earnings are down -3% to $986 million with production down -2%. Total operating profit slips -5% to $1.79bn reflecting higher operating costs twinned with lower volumes.

But the interim dividend rises +10% to 13.07 cents per share (8.51 pence). BG claims "excellent" productivity data from its latest Iara appraisal well with further solid exploration results in Tanzania. Egypt production is unaffected by recent events - yet it's a concern.

"Events in Egypt," says chief exec Chris Finlayson, "remain a primary concern and will continue to be so as the political, social and business environment evolves. While our offshore operations continue unaffected, higher than agreed gas volumes were diverted into the Egyptian domestic market during the quarter."

Lastly, an interim from Homeserve. The home insurance and breakdown player claims trading is in line with expectations. In the first four months of the financial year it claims it upped marketing activity to improve retention rate.

Retention in its US business remains high with the rate in the first half of FY2014 expected to be in line with the 80% reported for FY2013, claims Homeserve. Trading will be weighted towards the second half of the financial year, reflecting the seasonality of its business and associated renewals profile.

"In France, Doméo [Homeserve's joint venture] has maintained a high retention rate of around 88% and is continuing discussions with potential new affinity partners. In Spain, as we expected, customer and policy numbers are continuing to see strong growth."