Updates from Bovis Homes and Hiscox


Friday saw the FTSE 100 edge 25 points higher. It ended at 6,836, more than 170 points up on the week and is now increasingly within reach of its all-time 6,930, 30 Dec 1999). Cash-rich Vodafone was Friday's biggest climber, up +3.01% to 236p with BAE Systems rising 2.72% to 411p.

The Dow Jones though slipped almost 30 points, ending at 16,103.

We commence with a trading update from the Primark owner, Associated British Foods. Adjusted operating profit for the first half is expected to be in line with last year. A much lower profit from Sugar will be offset by strong performance from Primark and encouraging results from Grocery and Ingredients it claims.

Sterling is continuing to strengthen against major trading currencies and this will have a more significant negative effect on overseas results in the second half, ABF warns. But adjusted earnings per share for the financial year is expected to be similar to 2013.

"Sales at Primark in the first half have been very strong and are expected to be 13% ahead of the same period last year at constant currency and, with the benefit of a stronger euro in this period, 14% ahead at actual rates. This has been driven by 4% like-for-like sales growth."

Next, full year numbers for Bovis Homes, helped by the Goverment's Help-to-Buy scheme: revenues climb 31% to £556m while operating profit soars 46% to £82.2m. Pre-tax profits climb 48% to £78.8m. The Bovis dividend per share rises 50% to 13.5p from 9.0p.

Bovis - predominantly a Southern England house builder - says it's confident of delivering increases in volume, revenue and profit in 2014 with the aim of achieving a return on capital employed for the year of at least 14%.

"A rigorous focus," says Bovis, "on targeted land acquisition, together with tight management of costs and capital have enabled the Group to take full advantage of the more favourable market conditions to increase volumes, improve sales prices and strengthen margins."

We end with a look at Hiscox preliminary full year numbers. Gross written premiums climb 8.5% while Hiscox London Market delivered profits of £116.0 million (down on 2012: £121.9 million). Hiscox UK provides another "solid" performance with profits of £45.4 million (2012: £45.2 million)

Earnings per share climbs to 66.3p from 53.1p while the total dividend per share share for the year climbs to 21p from 18p. The company has been boosted by investment bank Nomura upgrading its outlook on the stock from Underweight to Buy.

"Our long term strategy," says boss Bronek Masojada, "of building local retail businesses in Europe, the UK, Guernsey and the US to balance internationally traded business in London and Bermuda continues to deliver. We are excited about the opportunities we see in many retail markets where we have room to grow profitably."