Updates from Premier Foods, Close Bros and Carillion

Sharwoods owner Premier Foods sees profits clipped while Carillion boosted by £200m prisons order

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More improvement for the FTSE 100, up 68.5 points on Thursday to 6,796.6. Smiths Group raced 5% ahead to 1136p while Schroders lifted 4.1% to 2832p. There were also good gains for easyJet and RoyalMail, up 3.6% and 3.5% respectively. Going south though were Dixons Carphone, down 2% to 430.70p and Shire, down 1.75% to 4714p.

Elsewhere, markets were buoyed modestly by the EU's £830bn QE bazooka with the German Dax up 1.3% and Cac 40 up 1.5%. The Dow Jones lifted 1.4% to 17,813, partly in response.

We commence with a 2014 4.9% profits slip forPremier Foods, owner of Sharwoods and Batchelor's brands. Profits pre-tax come in at £77.1m for the full year in contrast to more than £81m for 2013.

Adding to the gloom, Premier's Power Brands sales were clipped 3.5% in Q4. However Mr. Kipling was a stand-out performer in the fourth quarter, growing share, sales and volume. Trading profit for the year is £131m, in line with expectations says Premier.

"The business," says boss Gavin Darby, "will retain a tight focus on costs, trading profit and organic de-leveraging, with net debt expected to reduce significantly in 2015. We believe this balanced approach is central to the creation of future value."

Next, a half-year pre-close trading update from Close Brothers. Close claims strong returns in its banking division whilst trading in execution services Winterflood continues to be impacted by difficult market conditions it says.

Average bargains per day have remained broadly stable but income has dipped noticeably due to upped market volatility and reduced investor risk appetite, says the company.

"Market conditions for Winterflood continue to be challenging but the business remains well positioned. We continue to see opportunities for growth in Asset Management. Overall, we remain confident in the outlook."

Lastly, support services player Carillion - recently boosted by a rash of Buy recommendations from analysts including Jefferies Group and Oriel Securities - says it has signed contracts worth £200 million to provide facilities management services for several public sector prisons.

One contract will provide services in prisons in London and the East of England; the second will provide services in prisons in the South West, South Central, Kent plus Sussex.

"The contracts," says Carillon, "which cover approximately 50 prisons, will be for an initial five-year period, but with the potential for two subsequent one-year extensions, subject to satisfactory performance."

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