Updates from Next, United Utilities and Premier Farnell


While the Budget pensions news yesterday was a thumper for insurers Legal & General and Aviva, down 8.37% and 5.15% respectively, it was much better news for financial advice and investment player, Hargreaves Lansdown. HL soared more than 14% on Osborne's annuity changes to 1504p. The FTSE 100 ended 32 points down at 6,573.1.

Across the water, the Dow Jones slipped 114 points to 16,222.1 after rate rise noises from Fed reserve chair Janet Yellen.

We kick off with strong numbers from Next. It claims 5.4% growth in sales overall for the year and 11.8% growth in underlying profit before tax. Pre-tax profits for the year end climbs to £695.2m, higher than previous guidance.

In the year to January 2014, underlying post-tax earnings per share grew 23%. The full year dividend is being hiked in line with earnings per share, to 129p in total. Much of the growth is down to its catalogue and Directory internet business.

Next is predicting more sales growth of between 4-8% for the coming year with pretax profits rising as much as £730-770m. Next has returned £461m to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends in the last year and its share price has soared 55%, to £62.80.

Onto a trading update from United Utilities. Current trading is in line with the group's expectations for the year with revenue expected to be higher than last year, reflecting the regulated price change for 2013/14 says United.

Underlying operating profits for 2013/14 are anticipated to be moderately higher than 2012/13 says United. Net finance expenses for 2013/14 are expected to be similar to last year.

"Customer service continues to improve," claims United, "as measured by Ofwat's service incentive mechanism". The company remains ahead of schedule in delivering its 2010-15 regulatory outperformance targets, it claims.

Lastly, engineering distribution group Premier Farnell. Full year revenues climb 2.6% to £968m while adjusted operating profit slips 4.1% to £93m. Total pre-tax profit rises 8.4% to £74.8m.

The full year operating margin was 9.6% in line with expectations, reflecting a strategic focus to optimise business performance Premier says. Second half operating margin of 9.7% improved slightly compared to the first half despite two fewer trading days.

"We anticipate...in the coming year's operating margin remaining at broadly similar levels," says boss Laurence Bain, "to this year, reflecting the impact of our planned investments; thereafter, the Group will be better positioned to deliver financial performance in line with our key performance indicators."