Updates from Unilever and Debenhams

The FTSE 100 fell 21 points yesterday to 6,674. ARM Holdings saw the biggest sell-off, down -5.03% to 953.50p while Antofagasta slipped -4.26% to 865.50p. RSA Insurance Group saw the largest climb, up +2.50% to 127p.

After the recent shares rally, the Dow Jones was down 54 points yesterday at 15,413.
We commence with advertising titan WPP and a third quarter update. Third quarter reported revenues climb +7.4% to £2.680bn; third quarter like-for-like revenue growth accelerates +5.0%. Nine months reported revenues are up +7.2% at £8.007bn.

Operating profits and margins in the first nine months are in line with target (including operating margin improvement of 0.5 margin points) and budget and ahead of last year. There was net new business of $3.716bn in the third quarter, compared to $1.415bn in the third quarter last year.

"What we lost," says WPP, "on the swings of the fast growth markets, e.g. BRICs, was more than compensated by what we gained on the roundabouts of the slow growth mature markets of the United States and Western Continental Europe."

Next, an update from Persil maker Unilever. There's underlying sales growth of +4.4% with emerging markets up +8.8% for the last nine months. Underlying volume growth was +2.4% and pricing up +1.9%. Turnover was cut by -2.0% to €38.0bn, partly due to currently fluctuations.

For the third quarter, there was underlying sales growth of +3.2% with emerging markets up +5.9%. Underlying volume growth climbed +1.9% with pricing up +1.3%. Turnover dipped -6.5% to €12.5bn including a negative currency impact of -8.5%.

"We expect," says boss Paul Polman, "to report a sequential quarterly improvement in underlying sales growth in the fourth quarter driven by a strong innovation pipeline. We remain focused on achieving another year of profitable volume growth ahead of our markets."

Lastly, full year numbers from Debenhams. Though group like-for-like sales are up +2.0% the group gross margin remains flat while profits before tax are cut -2.7% to £154mn. Earnings per share climbs +4.1% to 10.2p; there's a final dividend of 2.4p per share taking the full year dividend to 3.4p.

Multi-channel continues to grow well ahead of the market with online sales up +46.2%, representing 13.2% of group sales.

"I am pleased," says chief exec Michael Sharp, "with our performance in 2013 given the very difficult conditions. We gained market share in key categories, demonstrating the competitiveness of our product offer."