Updates from Serco, Ladbrookes and Witan

Profits dive for Serco while bookie Ladbrokes also hit by profits pressure

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A clean 1% climb for the FTSE 100 on Monday, lifting it 65 points to 6,632.8. Persimmon surged 4.52% to 1272p while BA owner IAG lifted 4.45% to 331p. Ashtead Group also picked up strongly, rising 4.26% to 906.50p. RBS, on the other hand, saw the biggest sell-off losing 1.74% to 339.60p.

More pressure too for grocer Morrisons, sinking 1.65% to 166.8p, a 12-month low. Over in the US, the Dow Jones trod water, with shares nudging 16 points higher to 16,569.9.

First off this morning, an first half update from bookie Ladbrokes. Group net revenue climbs up 1.6% despite some poor industry wide sporting results but group operating profit overall slumps to £56.8 million, down 33.7%.

Underlying earnings per share slip 38.6% to 4.3p though the half year dividend is maintained at 4.3p per share (H1 2013: 4.3p). In terms of mobile sports growth, staking is up 105% and digital revenue climbs 25.9%.

"We enter H2 confident," says boss Richard Glynn, "in the power of the brand, our products, platforms and levels of service to attract customers and ensure they have a rewarding and enjoyable time with us. The focus is now on turning this into growth."

Next, Serco. Adjusted operating profit arrives at £50.7m, equivalent to £59.9m at constant currency after charging a loss of £14m in relation to its Compass contract it claims. However this compares to £146.3m in 2013.

Adjusted revenues slip 5% to £2,433m. No change to the dividend per share, maintained at 3.10p and the 2014 full guidance is maintained - Serco's phasing of profitability is skewed towards the second half of the year.

"As expected, trading was poor in the first half," says boss Rupert Soames. "Profits were in line with our revised expectations, and cash flow and net debt were better. We are making good progress with our Strategy Review, and in rebuilding trust and confidence with the UK Government."

We end with a half-year update from Witan Investment Trust. For the first half of 2014, the Company's Net Asset Value (NAV) total return was +1.1% compared with a benchmark return of +2.3% for the same period - a relative underperformance of 1.2%.

The share price total return was +6.9% says Witan, with a narrower discount continuing the trend seen in 2013. A second interim quarterly dividend of 3.6p per ordinary share will be paid next month.

"One surprise," warns Witan, "has been a strong rally in government bonds, sometimes seen as a harbinger of weaker growth." Currencies have also added volatility to the broader uncertainty, not to mention increasing US-Russian and Middle East tension.

Read more:
Morrisons cuts window cleaning to save cash
Serco profits lower than expected
Updates from Persimmon and Ladbrokes

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