Updates from Shell and William Hill


The FTSE 100 gave away four points on Thursday, slipping to 6,815.4. Intertek and BSkyB took the biggest share slips, down 3.36% and 2.82% respectively. But better news for miners Antofagasta and Fresnillo, up 5.38% and 5.24%, as cheeriness on the global economy prevailed.

The Dow Jones ended the day down 0.39% at 16,417.

We commence with a profits warning from oil giant Shell. Shell anticipates profits for the latest quarter to come in at around $2.2bn for the last quarter and $16.8bn or so for the full year. Shell recorded profits of more than $27bn in 2012.

"Our 2013 performance was not what I expect from Shell," admitted chief exec Peter Voser in a statement this morning. "Our focus will be on improving Shell's financial results, achieving better capital efficiency and on continuing to strengthen operational performance."

Compared with the fourth quarter 2012, upstream earnings were impacted by higher exploration expenses and lower volumes. It's thought Shell may be selling up to $30bn in assets including assets in the Niger Delta - the largest disposal, potentially, in Shell's history.

Next, a trip to the bookies and a William Hill Q4 trading update. For the 2013 vs 13 weeks of 2012, total online net revenues increased 14%. Sportsbook amounts wagered climbed 38% says Hill; retail as a whole extracted a 13% revenues climb.

Full year group operating profit is expected to be around £334m. Q4 saw strong underlying net revenue growth from sports betting. Online gaming net revenue growth rates improved due to improvements in mobile gaming claims Hill.

"Q4 proved," says chief exec Ralph Topping, "a strong end to the year as we enjoyed continued momentum in Sportsbook with 38% more wagered in Q4 on a 13 week basis than last year. This demonstrates our competitive strength in Online."

Lastly, a 12-month trading update from instrumentation player Spectris. Reported and like-for-like sales for the fourth quarter were up 3%. Reported sales for 2013 climbed 2% on the previous year. Adjusted operating profit is expected to be £214.7 million (2012: £216.9 million).

That gives an adjusted operating margin of 17.9% (2012: 18.4%). Regionally, like-for-like sales in Asia grew 12%, North America 2% and Europe 1% in the fourth quarter. For the full year, like-for-like sales in Europe grew 2% and Asia Pacific 1% while North America declined 3%.

"We are pleased," says chief exec John O'Higgins, Chief Executive, "with the good performance shown by our businesses in the fourth quarter, in view of a strong comparative prior year period. We continue to progress our strategic initiatives and the Group is well positioned for 2014 and beyond."