Updates from M&S, Booker Group and Tate & Lyle

M&S sales get a welcome boost meanwhile Kingfisher shares slump on store closure concern

Updated: 
savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, M&S, Tate & LyleA small recovery for the FTSE 100 on Wednesday, climbing 0.54%, or 36 points, to 6,809.5. Imperial Tobacco Group shares made a partial recovery from Tuesday trading, up 2.7% to 3045p meanwhile Barclays shares lifted 2.7% to 249.3p. Going the other way, B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher shares slumped more than 3.3% (to 368p) on news it was shuttering more than 60 stores. Shire shares were down almost 2% to 5260p.

The Dow Jones saw more pressure, down almost 78 points to 17,698.1 with Wal-Mart and 3m taking the biggest dents. Although there was more oil price optimism, construction and employment data lowered the mood.

We start with M&S and, crucially, an update from its poorly performing General merchandise sector (including women's wear). For the first time in 15 quarters, M&S appears to have arrested its decline: sales are up 1.3%, or 0.7% on a like-for-like basis.

Its Spring/Summer ranges have been well received it claims and it promoted less and focused more on full price sales. Food sales, as usual, pushed on: sales climbed 3.7%. However international sales are down almost 4% not helped by a struggling Russian economy.

"We continued to deliver on General Merchandise gross margin," says boss Marc Bolland, "and are pleased that we have achieved this whilst also improving General Merchandise sales. M&S.com has returned to growth."

Next, Tate & Lyle. Group adjusted profit before tax for the year is expected to be modestly below the range stated in September of £230 to £245 million says the company.

Profits have been held back by the impact of the operational and supply chain issues experienced in the first half, and the continued extremely competitive market for its Sucralose product, it adds.

Net debt at 31 March was around £500 million, higher than reported at 31 December 2014 (£466 million) due to rebuilt inventories and currency squalls, including the stronger US dollar.

Finally, a quarterly update from wholesaler Booker Group. Total sales in the 12 weeks, including Makro, rose 1.0% on the same period last year. But non-tobacco sales in Makro were down 7.4%.

Booker like-for-like total sales (excluding Makro) were 1.7% higher with non tobacco like-for-likes up 2.3% it claims.

"Despite price deflation," says boss Charles Wilson, "we have grown like for like sales and Booker Group remains on track to focus, drive and broaden the business to be the UK's leading wholesaler."

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