Updates from Home Retail Group and ABF


A +0.78% bump for the FTSE 100 yesterday: the index rose 53 points to 6,819. Anglo American was Wednesday's biggest riser, up +5.54% to 1332.50p with Burberry Group behind, climbing +4.63% to 1537p. But investors were less impressed with Hargreaves Lansdown, tumbling -4.11% to 1446p.

The Dow Jones ended the day up 108 points at 16,481.

We start with an update from Argos and Homebase owner Home Retail Group. Argos like-for-like sales climbed 3.8% in the 18 weeks and 3.1% for the 44 weeks to 4 January while Homebase like-for-like sales were up 4.7% and 5.4% on the same metrics.

Internet sales now represent 46% of total Argos sales, up from 42%. Argos electrical products delivered a particularly strong performance. Argos mobile commerce sales grew 75% to represent 20% of total Argos sales in the period.

"As a result of the trading performance," says chief exec Terry Duddy, "we now expect to achieve full year Group benchmark profits towards the top end of the current range of market expectations of £90m to £109m. We remain on track to deliver the investment plans in both businesses."

Next, a 16-week update from Primark, Allinson and Kingsmill owner, ABF Foods. Group revenue for the first 16 weeks was in line with last year. Sugar revenues were 27% below last year at constant currency while grocery revenues at actual rates was 1% below.

Twinings Ovaltine performed well with strong growth for tea in the US and the UK says ABF. Predictably, strong sales from high street retailer Primark: 12% ahead at constant currency and, with the benefit of a stronger euro, 14% ahead of the same period last year.

Primark's operating profit margin "was higher than in the same period last year, reflecting the Christmas trading, and was better than expected," says the company. There are signs Primark "has captured the imagination of French consumers, with one of our best store openings to date," the company adds.

Lastly, Halfords and a trading statement for the last quarter. Group sales climb +6.6% overall with Autocentres climbing 9.2%. For the last 41 weeks overall Group sales are up 7.3%.

On a like-for-like revenues basis, Group sales for the last quarter are up 5.2% though on a 41-week basis this number climbs to 5.9%. Cycling sales growth was particularly strong says Halfords. Its financial position is described as "sound".

"Our Retail top-line performance," says chief exec Matt Davies, "was robust in a period of comparatively mild weather. Within Car Maintenance, despite a fall in demand for winter products and low growth in auto-parts sales, we undertook record levels of 3Bs [bulbs, batteries, blades] fitting activity."