Updates from Morrisons, Serco and Home Retail Group

More grim numbers from Morrisons meanwhile high street Argos sales also come under pressure

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savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, Argos, Morrisons, Serco
A touch more optimism for the FTSE 100 on Wednesday, up 18.6 points to 6,721.5. Aggreko and RoyalMail were the biggest winners, up 3.7% and 3.6% to (to 1572p and 437.5p respectively). BA owner IAG surged more than 3% to 562p. At the other end, SportsDirect shares lost ground, down just under 2% to 657p while Antofagasta shares dipped -1.7%.

The Dow Jones struggled, slipping 27 points to 17,635.3 with Wal-Mart down -1.6% and Coca-Cola losing fizz, down -1.4%. Concern remains about the appreciating US dollar for many, not to mention rising oil inventories.

The big news this mornings is Morrisons - and some truly awful numbers. Preliminary results show like-for-like (LFL) sales down 5.9% (2013/14: down 2.8%) while total turnover slips 4.9% to £16.8bn (2013/14: £17.7bn).

Underlying profit before tax plummets 52% to £345m (2013/14: £719m. The supermarket is also hit by a downgrade in the value of their property portfolio with an impairment £1,273m charge "primarily due to market conditions" says Morrisons.

"David Potts," says chairman Andrew Higginson, "joins as Chief Executive next week. Under his leadership, we will focus on building trading momentum and being more like the Morrisons our customers expect."

We stay in retail shopping, next, with Argos and B&Q owner Home Retail Group. For the eight weeks to 28 February, total sales at Argos dipped 4.0% to £505m while like-for-like sales were down 5%.

Like-for-like sales at Homebase was cut 0.9%. Total Homebase sales declined by 4.7% to £193m. However chief exec for Home Retail Group John Walden says gross margins and costs remain positive.

"As a result of this, we expect that Group benchmark profit before tax for the FY15 financial year will be towards the top end of the current range of market expectations of £120m to £132m."

Lastly, services operator Serco and a £555m rights issue in the offing in an effort to slash debts. Operating losses have climbed to £656m in comparison to profits in excess of £230m this time last year.

Bad news on the Serco dividend though the guidance overall for 2015 profits does not change. Overall, the full Serco numbers include £1.3bn of "onerous" contract provisions, charges and impairments.

"We have," claims Serco CEO Rupert Soames, "all we need: a good plan, strong management to execute it, and, following the successful completion of our proposed rights issue and refinancing, a balance sheet that is an appropriate foundation on which to implement our new strategy."

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