Updates from Shell, Diageo and Royal Mail

Royal Mail chairman quits meanwhile Shell's full year earnings gush higher, but warns of investment pressure

savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, Royal Mail, Diageo, Shell
The FTSE 100 flatlined on Wednesday, up just 14 points to 6,825.9. South African owner of Fosters and Grolsch, SABMiller, climbed 4.6% to 3594p while Anglo American and Dixons Carphone each saw 2.3% rises (to 1115p and 429p respectively). The day's biggest loser by a wide margin was grocer Morrisons, slumping 6.1% to 186.30p following a withering assessment from analyst Bernstein: Morrisons remains in poor shape.

The Dow Jones slipped 1.1% in total, down 195 points to 17,191.3 following more pressure on oil prices, falling back to their lowest point for six years.

A surfeit of corporate news today. The big beast is Shell with full year earnings hitting $19bn compared to $16.7bn a year ago. Shell's fourth quarter earnings also improve substantially, rising to $4.2bn from $2.2bn this time last year.

In terms of dividends, a fourth quarter dividend has been announced of $0.47 per ordinary share. Shell though says investment in the next three years will be scaled back as much as $15bn, blaming falling oil prices.

"Shell," says boss Ben van Burden, "has delivered where it counts in 2014. We are stepping up our drive for stronger capital efficiency, whilst being careful not to over-react to the recent fall in oil prices."

Next, six-month numbers from Smirnoff and Guinness owner Diageo. The Park Royal-based company - according to a Telegraph report Diageo may up its supplier payment timeline to 90 days - says organic net sales in the half were broadly flat (-0.1%) with volume down 1.9%. Performance improved in Q2 though.

Some restructuring benefits drives an operating margin improvement of 28bps with organic operating profit up 0.7%, claims Diageo. The interim dividend climbs 9% to 21.5 pence per share.

"We have," says boss Ivan Menezes, "already taken action to improve the performance of those brands and markets that have not performed as well as we would expect. This contributed to our stronger second quarter performance and I expect to maintain this momentum."

Lastly, chairman of Royal Mail Donald Brydon is to quit. Brydon was appointed Chairman in 2009 and led the Group's float in October 2013.

Last year Pensions Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) warned Royal Mail shareholders that Brydon could not give sufficient time to both Royal Mail and accountant software giant Sage, which Brydon also chairs.

"I am proud," says Brydon, "of what Royal Mail has achieved as a company in the last six years. Our transformation is well underway and we are now a FTSE 100 listed company."

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