Updates from Mitchells & Butlers and WS Atkins

Royal Mail shares take a 2.3% hit though there's better news for miners

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savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100The FTSE 100 saw respite from recent falls on Wednesday, gaining 30 points to 6,706.2. BHP Billiton and Vodafone were the biggest gainers, up 3.22% and 2.82% respectively (to 1797.50p and 204.25p). However both Royal Mail and Centrica endured losses, down 2.29% and 2.0% (to 414.40p and 308.10p).

But there was a 0.90% one-day gain for the Dow Jones, surging 154 points to 17,210 putting an end to a three-day slide helped by better sentiment from US home sales.

First, a trading update from FTSE 250 player Mitchells & Butlers. The pubs operator says total sales growth for the 51 weeks was 3.8%, with like-for-like sales increasing 0.6%. But trading conditions during August were difficult in the pub market.

Consumers remained cautious about spending and rainfall was significantly higher than last year Mitchells & Butlers says. Like-for-like sales grew by just 0.1% in the nine weeks to 20 September.

"Margins remain below last year," says the company, "as a result of lower levels of sales and also of spend per head, as we moderate price increases to drive volume back into our sites."

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Next a trading statement from WS Atkins. The Group's overall first half performance is expected to be in line with expectations, despite currency headwinds. The group is also up against a strong 2013, in comparison.

UK and Europe business saw a mixed first half. Despite high volumes of work in its rail business, financial performance continues to be impacted by several outstanding negotiations says Atkins; its outlook remains unchanged however.

"Elsewhere, however, there is good ongoing demand," it says, "for our services as the Government continues to implement its strategy of investment to meet the infrastructure needs of the UK economy."

Lastly, 3i Infrastructure. Its portfolio assets continue to perform well financially, generating income of £31 million in the period, in line with the six months to 30 September 2013, 3i claims.

However highly competitive market conditions are making it tough for the company to find new investment opportunities in core infrastructure it says, consistent with its return target.

"Prices for infrastructure assets," says the company, "particularly in core infrastructure, continue to rise as recent competitive auction processes have evidenced." The company had its Sector Performer rating restated by RBC Capital recently.

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