Updates from Barclays, Hiscox and Countrywide


The FTSE 100 lifted a smidge before the bank holiday weekend, rising 13.55 points to 6,822.4. InterContinental Hotels saw the biggest jump, rising 8.20% to 2190p. RBS was very close behind, climbing 8.19% to 331.70p on the back of positive quarterly numbers.

Friday's biggest loser was Primark-owner ABF, down 3.24% to 2900p.

Barclays heads the corporate news list this morning with pre-tax profits falling five per cent due to lower investment bank returns. Barclays reports adjusted profits of £1.69bn. Quieter client activity was partly blamed.

Chief exec Antony Jenkins will deliver a strategic update on the bank's direction later this week which will focus on the future positioning of the investment bank and, very likely, significant job cuts.

"We continue to be cautious about the trading environment," says Barclays this morning, "in which we operate and as a consequence we remain focused on structurally reducing the cost base in order to improve returns."

Next, insurer Hiscox. For the three months of the year to 31 March the specialist insurer says written premiums grew 2.3% in local currency, with a small decrease in Sterling to £501.6 million (2013: £506.1 million).

The first quarter saw a diverse range of losses, including marine liability, energy and movie production claims. The Group also had exposure to the tragic Malaysian Airline flight 370 and Korean ferry loss.

"The market is softening," says the company, "but conditions in many of our insurance lines are good. Our retail businesses continue to benefit from long-term investment in the brand and our acquisition of DirectAsia represents another important milestone."

Lastly, an update from Countrywide. Q1 total income soared 35% to £157.1m. Q1 2014 revenue and EBITDA for its letting business increasing 20% and 50% respectively compared to the same period last year.

So far for 2014, Countywide has bought Tucker Gardner, a sales and lettings business in Cambridge and surrounding areas and Preston Bennett, an agent in land and new homes in North London.

"2014 has begun strongly," says chief exec Grenville Turner, "and as a result of our national coverage, we expect to deliver very significant growth in 2014. Our underlying level of cash generation remains positive."