Updates from WPP and William Hill


A 28 point rise for the FTSE 100 on Thursday, ending at 6,703. Smith & Nephew was the biggest riser, up 3.35% to 909p while AstraZeneca climbed 3.28% to 4175p. Travis Perkins fell hardest, down 3.77% to 1763p; ABF also saw a 3.27% dip.

The Dow Jones trod water at 16,501 as US-Russian-Ukrainian tension were kept an eye on.

A brace of well-known names this morning: we start with WPP which claims like-for-like revenues of 7.0%. Constant currency revenues climb 9.6%. However the climb in the value of the pound sees revenues in sterling clipped back to 1.5% growth (to £2.57bn).

"The United Kingdom's rate of gross margin or net sales growth," says WPP, "which slowed in the final quarter of 2013, grew strongly in the first quarter of 2014, with constant currency growth of 8.7%."

WPP clailms strong like-for-like revenue growth in all regions and business sectors with robust growth in North America, the United Kingdom and Asia Pacific; also Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe.

Next, Q1 numbers for the 13 weeks to 1 April for William Hill. Retail operating profit slumps 25% while online is down 6%. Gross win margin performance is hit by two substantial loss-making weeks driven by football results.

Online gaming net revenue growth climbs 16% though, benefiting from 142% growth in mobile. The very strong gross win margin in Q1 2013 set a high bar - so William Hill appears to face tough comparative figures.

"It is important to look through short-term sporting results," says Hill, "to the underlying strength of the business. Mobile, for instance, continues to go from strength to strength, increasing to 45% of Online Sportsbook amounts wagered and 27% of Online gaming net revenue in the period."

Finally, instrumentation player Spectris. Reported sales for the first quarter ending 31 March 2014 were down 1%, hit by foreign currency exchange movements (-6%). Operating cash-flow conversion, Spectris claims, continues to be strong.

On a like-for-like basis, sales were 4% higher than the same period last year. Like-for-like sales to North America grew 7%, Asia Pacific by 6% and Europe by 1% says the company.

"We will continue to invest in our key growth programmes," says boss John O'Higgins, "new product pipeline and R&D. In addition, as previously highlighted, a return to sustainable growth will lead to a gradual reversal of the discretionary cost savings made in 2013."