Updates from Home Retail Group and Aer Lingus


The FTSE 100 slipped almost 35 points on Wednesday, ending 34.68 points down at 6,838.8. Rolls-Royce saw the most pressure, down 5.48% to 1017p while Vodafone Group also sank heavily, down 4.52% to 199.40p. Airlines too took steep hits with easyJet down 3.95% to 1530p and IAG down 3.05% to 400p.

The Dow Jones sank more than 102 points to 16,843 as global growth concerns grew.

We start with an update from Argos and Homebase owner Home Retail Group for the 13 weeks to 31 May. Total sales at Argos grew 4.8% to £868m. Like-for-like sales increased 4.9% in the quarter. Internet sales grew in line with company sales representing 42% of Argos sales.

Total sales at Homebase grew 5.5% to £445m. Like-for-like sales increased 7.9% driven by strong sales of seasonal products says Homebase, which represented around 40% of total sales in the quarter, benefiting from better weather.

However an approximate 50 basis point gross margin decline "was principally driven by an adverse sales mix impact from the growth in the margin dilutive seasonal and big ticket product categories".

Next, a profits warning from Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus expects its 2014 operating profits (before net exceptional items) will be 10% to 20% lower than last year, depending in part on the speed it can win back customer confidence.

Strike threats have "significantly" damaged the airline. Impact trade union, which represents Aer Lingus cabin crew, has postponed two 24-hour stoppages next week. Impact claims cabin crew were having to work up to 60 hours in a week.

In May Aer Lingus reported positive trading in April, maintaining guidance that 2014 operating profits would be in line with the year before.

We end with preliminary numbers from design and project management player WS Atkins for the year to 31 March. Operating profit climbs 9.3% to £113.7m while pre-tax profits rise 16.5% to £114.2m. The dividend rises 5.5% to 33.75p.

"We have achieved," says chairman Allan Cook, "good results with growth in profits and a strong cash performance. We have also made significant progress in delivering our strategy across the three pillars of operational excellence, portfolio optimisation and growth in defined segments and regions."

Panmure Gordon recently reissued a Hold rating on the stock while Liberum Capita have reiterated a Buy rating.

Home Retail Group
Aer Lingus
PZ Cussons