Updates from BHP Billiton and InterContinental Hotels


A 1.09% boost for the FTSE 100 on Monday, climbing more than 72 points to 6,736. Hammerson and RBS helped buoy optimism, up 3.13% (to 560.50p) and 2.69% (to 351.80p) respectively. Imperial Tobacco was also up strongly.

Across the pond, the Dow Jones climbed +0.79% to 16,154.

Let's start with a strong profits jump from Melbourne miner BHP Billiton. Underlying first half year profit soars to $7.8bn (previous analyst predictions were closer to $6.9bn) - that's 31% climb on last year - helping its share price climb 2% in Australian trading.

The strong performance was driven by a chunky improvement in productivity and additional volume from the BHP Billiton's lower risk, largely brownfield investment program, the company claims.

The hike in productivity "supported," says the company, "a nine per cent increase in the Group's Underlying EBIT margin to 38 per cent and a strong improvement in the Group's Underlying return on capital to 22 per cent."

Next, InterContinental Hotels. Revenues climb 4% to $1,903m for 2013 with operating profit up 10% to $668m. Group fee margin rose 1.3% to 43.2% with scale benefits and cost efficiencies offsetting increased investment claims the hotel player.

Adjusted earnings per share rises 10% to $668m. "Our decision," says chief exec Richard Solomons, "to increase our ordinary dividend by 9% reflects our confidence in our proven strategy to deliver high quality growth."

The company is on the cusp of opening a tranches of new hotels - up to 100 - in China across its five brands, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn Express.

We end with final numbers for 2013 from oil and gas player John Wood Group: profit before tax climbs 14% to $412.8m (2012: $361.4m) on a total 3% revenue climb while adjusted diluted earnings per share rises 16% to 98.6 cents (2012: 85.2 cents).

"Looking to 2014," says chief exec Bob Keiller, "our mix of opex and capex activities and the contribution of completed acquisitions is expected to lead to growth overall."

The company recently had its Buy rating reiterated from Investec with a 720p share price target (currently 676.50p).