Updates from Admiral, Michael Page and Pennon Group

Sports Direct shares climb sharply while Admiral staff look to clean up

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stocks investment cash pension planning FTSE 100
The FTSE 100 barely budged on Tuesday, down just 0.40 to 6,632.4. Sports Direct International was the biggest climber, up 3.10% to 682.50p while Prudential also climbed, up 2.20%, to 1368.50p. Hargreaves Lansdown gave away almost 2.9% to 1050p, in contrast.

Heavy falls though from the German Dax, down 1.21% while the Dow Jones mirrored London's calm, down just 9.4 points to 16,560.5.

We start with car insurance player Admiral Group. Statutory profit before tax climbs just 1% to £183.3 million (H1 2013: £181.4 million) but UK Car Insurance profit before tax surges 8% to £207.7 million (H1 2013: £192.7 million).

Earnings per share rises 5% to 52.7 pence (H1 2013: 50.1 pence) while the interim dividend climbs 1% to 49.4 pence per share (2013 interim: 48.9 pence per share). Group turnover though dips 5% to £1,037.1 million (H1 2013: £1,089.1 million).

Nearly 7,000 Admiral employees will be eligible to receive £1,500 of shares each via its Employee Share Scheme, based on the H1 2014 numbers.

"However, as we've said previously," Admiral warns, "our margin expectations for business earned this year are lower than in recent years, which is unsurprising considering the decline in premium levels over the last three years."

Next, new Michael Page numbers. There's first half Group gross profit growth of 7.9% from the recruiter with strong country performances from major economies: gross profit UK (+10%), US (+23%) and Greater China (+22%), Page claims.

Operating profit climbs 11% to £35.7m while revenues rise 1.8% to £512.2m, though this pushes to 8.3% higher at constant exchange rates. The underlying business environment is gradually improving in a number of its key markets, it says.

"For the full year," says boss Steve Ingham, "if the current trend of improving growth rates is maintained and foreign exchange rates remain constant, we expect to perform in line with market expectations."

Lastly, Pennon Group. The utility player says 014/15 profits will be impacted by the 2014/15 tariff freeze already announced. South West Water should be able to accelerate a number of key projects (eg bathing water improvements) ahead of legislative changes it says.

Viridor's first half 2014/15 EBITDA, Pennon's recycling arm, will be materially lower than in H1 2013/14, Pennon warns. Year to date performance has primarily been impacted by the expected continuation of the decline of the landfill business.

"As expected, landfill gas generation has declined from peak and the recycling business has been moderately affected by near term weakness in recycling prices."

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