Updates from United Utilities and Booker Group

Updated: 
The FTSE 100 finished a slightly subdued 11 points down yesterday, at 6,558. However ARM Holdings climbed +3.20% to 984p with Smiths Group up +2.62% to 1412p. Aberdeen Asset Management was the heaviest faller, down -3.47% to 367.30p.

The Dow Jones finished on a high, up 146 points at 15,676, after the Fed indicated stimulus efforts will continue.
We commence with a Q2 trading update from major UK food wholesaler, Booker Group. Total sales in the 12 weeks to 13 September 2013, including Makro, climbed +19.3% on the same period last year. Booker like-for-likes (excluding Makro) were +3.5% higher with non tobacco like-for-likes up +6.9%.

The Makro turnaround is progressing "well" with major strides on cash management claimed. As of 13 September 2013 net cash was £123m versus net cash of £70m a year ago. The cash includes £12m from the sale and leaseback of two cash and carries.

"Booker Group has had a good start to the year as we continue to focus, drive and broaden our enlarged business," says chief exec Charles Wilson. "Our plans for bringing Booker and Makro together are on track."

Next, a trading update from United Utilities. Revenues are expected to be higher than the first half of last year, reflecting the regulated price increase for 2013/14. The revenue increase is expected to be slightly below the allowed regulated price rise.

Current trading is in line with the group's expectations for the six months up to 30 September 2013 and United remains, it says, firmly on track to deliver its 2010-15 regulatory outperformance targets.

"The underlying net finance expense," says the company, "for the first half of 2013/14 is anticipated to be similar to the first half of last year. Group net debt at 30 September 2013 is expected to be slightly higher than the position at 31 March 2013."

Finally, numbers for the first half of the financial year from engineering player Premier Farnell. Operating profit rises +8.2% to £47.7m while basic earnings per share climbs +14.5% to 7.1p. Group H1 sales per day are up +0.9% versus prior year.

A focus on optimising performance saw the Group's industry leading operating margin improve from the levels experienced at the end of the prior year, Premier says. Looking ahead to the second half, it continues to have limited forward order visibility; current market conditions remain "variable".

"However, with our proposition benefitting," says chief exec Laurence Bain, "from the first half inventory investments and initiatives taken to optimise business performance, we expect to continue to grow our active customer base, gain market share and drive financial performance."