Updates from BP, Whitbread and Stagecoach


The FTSE 100 crept 14.47 points forward on Monday to 6,700.1. Pfizer's chasing of AstraZeneca saw the share price of the British acquisition target soar, up 14.38% to 4666.50p. Other rises were far more restrained: witness a 2.61% climb for Sainsbury's, to 330.50p. ARM Holdings took the biggest drop, down 3.23% to 915p.

Across the water the Dow Jones lifted 0.53% to 16,448 after mixed trading, helped by a surge in health stocks.

We commence with first quarter group numbers for oil giant BP. Quarterly underlying replacement cost profit is cut to $3.2 billion compared to $4.2 billion in the first quarter of 2013 - an effective 23% fall, but still ahead of forecasts.

Sales and other operating revenues came in at $91.71 billion compared to $94.11 billion a year ago. BP confirms it will hike its quarterly dividend to 9.75 cents per share, more than 8% higher than this time last year.

However production for the first quarter slumped 8.5% to 2.13 million barrels of oil a day; second-quarter production will also be less than the first quarter due to major maintenance programs in the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Next, preliminary numbers from Whitbread: total revenues climb 13.0% to £2,294.3 million (2012/13: £2,030.0 million) with group like-for-like sales up 4.2%. Underlying profit before tax climbs 16.5% to £411.8 million (2012/13: £353.4 million).

Underlying basic earnings per share climb 20.1% to 179.02p while the full year dividend rises 19.9% to 68.80p (2012/13: 57.40p). Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants profits climb 11.2% to £348.1 million; Costa profits climb 21.9% to £109.8 million.

"Strong cash flow," says chairman Anthony Habgood, "funded the necessary capital investment for our growth engines, Premier Inn and Costa, to increase their share of the market. I am confident that the brand strength of Premier Inn and Costa will continue to fuel the Company's growth into the future."

Lastly, a trading update from bus and rail operator Stagecoach. The overall profitability of the Group is described as "satisfactory" with no significant change to expected adjusted earnings per share up to 30 April.

Like-for-like revenue growth for UK Bus (regional operations) is up 4.8% for the 48 weeks to 30 March while the London region sees a 4.6% climb. UK Rail operations sees a 4.5% rise and Virgin Rail Group sees a 5.9% lift.

"We expect that property losses in our UK Bus (regional operations) division will amount to no more than £2m in the current year," says the company, "and that gains and losses in other parts of the Group will be insignificant."