Updates from Compass Group and Thomas Cook


The FTSE 100 saw just a 0.41 point gain on Wednesday, ending the day at 6,605.30. Lloyds was the biggest faller, down 4.94% to 75.20p. Centrica was also down heavily (2.83% to 323.10p). However Standard Life soared more than 7% to 400p on news of picking up Ignis Asset Management for £390m.

Other stock markets were more bullish with the German Dax up 1.18%; but tech weakness saw the Dow Jones slip almost 100 points to 16,268.

We commence with a trading update from food services company Compass. Organic revenue growth for the first half is expected to be just over 4%, with an increase in operating profit margin of around 10 basis points.

Organic revenue growth of just over 4% includes a benefit of approximately 0.4% from the timing of Easter, reversing in the second half says Compass. There's been strong growth in North America and the Fast Growing & Emerging region and signs of stabilisation in Europe & Japan.

"The pipeline of new contracts is encouraging," says Compass, "and our focus on efficiencies gives us confidence in another year of delivery. In the longer term, we remain excited about the significant structural growth opportunities in both food and support services globally."

Next, a Thomas Cook update. Winter trading was "satisfactory" despite significant market disruption by Egyptian unrest. Bookings for the Summer 2014 season have improved since first quarter results with around 50% of holidays already sold.

Compared with last year, margins are expected to improve more than average selling prices. In the UK, bookings are 2% higher than last year (apart from Egypt). Pricing however was impacted by a higher proportion of one-week duration holidays and keen pricing in certain destinations.

"Bookings at our higher margin concept hotels are up 49%," says the company, "compared with the same time last year and our hotel development programme remains well on track."

Lastly, engineering support player Babcock says it has a conditional agreement to acquire helicopter services company Avincis for £920 million from World Helicopters S.à r.l. Babcock Group will also take on Avincis' net debt of £705 million.

Babcock says the acquisition will be funded through a rights issue of five new ordinary shares at 790 pence each for every 13 existing ordinary shares, raising approximately £1,100 million, before expenses.

"The proposed acquisition of Avincis," says Babcock chief exec Peter Rogers, "meets Babcock's strategic objectives as it brings into the Babcock Group a market-leading business, delivering mission critical services and complex engineering support to blue-chip customers in multiple geographies."

Breaking news: The 'Big Six' Energy players are to face a competition inquiry from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)