Updates from Legal & General, easyJet and Interserve

US shares drop sharply on new Russian-Ukraine worries. Meanwhile Legal & General profits pick up


The FTSE 100 climbed a smidge higher on Tuesday, up 4.9 points to 6,682. Weir Group was the best performer, up 2% to 2576p while Intertek Group climbed 1.81% to 2755p. Going the other way was Meggitt, down 4.73% to 479.70p after a sizeable slump in interim profits. Royal Mail shares also suffered again, down 3.61% to 405p.

Meanwhile the bad news continued for US shares: the Dow Jones slumped almost 140 points, falling 0.84% from poor economic Chinese news and renewed Russian-Ukrainian anxiety.

This morning's big news is from Legal & General. Operating profit climbs 11% to £636m (H1 2013: £571m) while profit after tax is up 9% to £507m (H1 2013: £466m); earnings per share rise 9% to 8.51p (h1 2013: 7.82p).

There's record annuity sales of £3.5bn while assets under management climb 7% to £465.1bn. UK protection sales are up 17% to £123m.

"These are strong financial results," says chief exec Nigel Wilson, "with dividends once again growing over 20% and a return on equity of 17.6%. We continue to deliver good growth on all other key metrics."

Next, new half-year numbers from Interserve. Revenues climb almost 29% to £1,374.8m while operating profits soar 35.9% to £53.7m. Headline earnings per share rise 28.5% to 27.5p.

Market conditions in International Construction and Support Services continue to be highly competitive, although Interserve says it's now starting to see signs of improving demand.

"Our financial position," it ways, "remains strong which, together with our growing future workload, underpins the Board's confidence in our positive outlook and the increase in the interim dividend to 7.5 pence."

Lastly, easyJet stats for July. Passenger numbers climb 7.7% to 6,434,284 while the load factor rises 1.3pp to 92.9%. On a 12-month rolling basis passenger numbers climb 5.9% to 63,828,512 and the load factor climbs to 1.1pp, to 90.2%.

New research shows that the average cost of both easyJet and Ryanair tickets are climbing - easyJet seat prices have climbed by almost as much as 20% in the last year.

Meanwhile easyJet has picked up a consensus Buy rating from a spread of rating firms, including Numis, covering the stock.

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