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Ian Pollard – Burberry #BRBY revenue falls; excitement with brand heat & social conversation

Burberry Group plc BRBY would have you believe that customers are experiencing excitement ahead of new product delivery. They are also building brand heat and that is causing the customer excitement to grow even more. Digital engagement is also high on the list of jargon in todays update which is for the 13 weeks to the 29th December. Unfortunately the figures will not create any excitement as they show retail revenue fell by 1% during the thirteen weeks or 2% at constant exchange rates.Social conversation reached c57 million consumers during the Festive season. The company seems to appear to be proud of that even if it did not do much for revenue. In case you missed it first time round hey are keen to confirm this brand heat thing.

Antofagasta ANTO finished the year strongly with record copper production for the quarter whilst net cash costs for the quarter were the lowest since 2012. 2019 is expected to start with real momentum for what the company expects to be another record-setting year’ with production increasing by up to 9% to 750-790,000 tonnes.Group and copper production also set a record for the year and fourth quarter gold production increased by 87% over the previous quarter. Gold, copper and molybdenum production in 2019 are all expected to set new records.

WH Smith plc SMWH claims a strong trading performance across the Group for the 20 weeks to the 19th January.Total sales rose by 6% and like for like by 3%, The High Street is said to be doitg well with a sales fall of 1%, whilst the international business has continued to grow and now has over 420 stores.

Hotel Chocolat Group HOTC updates that total Group revenue for 13 weeks to the 30th December increased by 15% compared to the previous year. 15 new stores were opened during the six months to the end of December,

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Ian Pollard – WH Smith #SMWH benefits from “potentially poisonous” slime related products

WH Smith plc SMWA  appears to be well esconced in cloud cuckoo land with a claim that it had a good year in the High Street where trading profit fell by 3%. Nonetheless it identified and joined the latest trend by becoming a one-stop-shop for all “slime related” products. Not surprisingly a relationship to slime  was followed by a 3% fall in revenue,which is perhaps a good thing. Despite the strength of travel where revenue rose by 3% on a like for like basis, group profit before tax for the year to 31st August was down by 4% and diluted earnings per share by 5%. All this lack of success resulted in a 13% rise in the final dividend, no doubt well justified and logical in the eyes of the board. Let us hope that those slime related products are not as unsafe and potentially harmful as some busybodies like Which are beginning to suggest. Otherwise that 3% drop in revenue may be regarded as having been a good year as news of alleged safety problems including burns begin to surface. The dangers of slime related toys were exposed by The Telegraph as recently as July when it reported that consumer watchdogs found many slime related toys are potentially poisonous because of their boron content.exposure to excessive levels of which can cause irritation, diarrhea, vomiting and cramps in the short term,

Countryside Props CSP produced one of the biggest disasters to hit the house building industry in recent times. It was forced to reduce its average selling price by 7% in the year to the 30th September due to what is described as “regional mix”.(nothing to do with Mother’s Pride I am assured) However, with the average selling price still as high as 402,000 there is still plenty of room for more good news for the few who can still afford to buy a house. Completions for the year rose by 27% and as at the year end the total order book was up by 40% compared to 2017

Dunelm Group plc DNLM reports total like for like revenue growth of +4.2% in its first quarter to the 29th September, compared to 9.3% for the previous year. In fact but for tablet-based selling in-store for home delivery, underlying like for like performance would have fallen by 0.4% which is not a good sign at all. Online sales however helped to save the day with a rise of 33% which would have been even greater at over 50% had those in store online tablet sales been included.

Hays plc HAS claims a good start to its financial year, with yet another record quarterly net fee performance producing growth of 9%. The Rest of The World in particular showed strong growth with the USA and China, up 27% and 29% respectively.

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Ian Pollard – Churchill China #CHH Smashing Export Records

Churchill China CHH has delivered a strong first half performance and is increasing its interim dividend by 18%. Profit before tax and earnings per share both rose by 24% but perhaps the best news of all is that export revenue which grew by 17%, now represent 63% of group revenue, up from last years 57%.

Hays plc HAS delivered record international profits in the year to the 30th June as well as record total dividends for the year. Profit before tax rose by 17% and basic earnings per share by 18%. As usual the UK & Ireland was the laggard with only 2% net fee growth compared to 17% for the Rest of the World and 16% for Germany. Core dividends for the full year are increased by 18% plus payment of a special dividend of 5p per share.

W.H. Smith plc SMWH updates that the travel business performed strongly for the year to the 31st August. Perhaps not surprisingly the high street business only performed in line with expectations.

Hunting plc HTG is restoring its interim dividend with a payment of cents per share for the half year to the 30th June after enjoying a strong increase in volumes manufactured during the first half of 2018 and compared to 2017 when the interim dividend was nil. Reported profit from operations came in at $38.9m compared to last years loss of $23.9m loss. Results for the half year are underpinned, says the CEO by a strong market environment which has led to outstanding results for Hunting Titan and improving profitability for Hunting’s US operations. Reported diluted earnings per share rose to19.1 cents per share compared to 2017’s loss of 15.8 cents loss per share.

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Ian Pollard – Saga Blames Profits Fall On Cost Savings

Saga plc SAGA In its preliminary results for the year to 3st January Saga comes out with the statement that the fall of 7.6% in like for like profit before tax is due (inter alia) to cost savings. No wonder the CEO admits that it has been a challenging few months for the company with the share price under pressure. Like for like earnings per share fell by a similar amount, down 7.8%. As a sign of what could be done, there was strong growth in travel with a rise of 36.9% The full year dividend is to be increased by 5.9% to 9p per share but just imagine where it might have been without those cost savings.

WH Smith plc SMWH claims it delivered a good performance in the half year to the 28th February with the interim dividend increased by 10% as senior management celebrates falls of 1% in profit before tax, diluted earnings per share and profit from trading operations, not to mention a 6% drop in High Street trading profit. In fact the only growth came from the travel division which once more saved the day with a 5% rise in trading profit. The CEO is confident in the outcome for the full year. Shareholders can only hope that it will not be as “strong” as the first half.

Dunelm DNLM The new Chief Executive says has become increasingly excited since he joined the company in February but that may soon wear off once he has to deal with the reality of keeping store sales rising.In the quarter to the 31st March like for like online sales rose by 35.7% and store sales by 1.2%, a sign of the times if ever there was one. Total group sales for the quarter rose by 5.1% but gross margins were down by 15bps although they are expected to improve in quarter 4. No new stores at all are to be opened in the second half which is perhaps an even greater sign of the times.

Hays plc HAS Total net fees for the three months to the 31st March grew by 9% as the world, with the exception of the UK, prospered.  Again the figures reveal the plight of the UK economy where net fees fell by 2% compared for exmple to Germany which had a record quarter with a rise of 19%. Twenty of the company’s 33 markets achieved double digit growth which makes the UK look sick indeed.

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WH Smith – Now A Travel Company

WH Smith PLC SMWH has now become a travel company rather than a high street retailer, as for the first time, Travel revenue has overtaken High Street revenue. Travel has now become the largest part of the group producing over 60% of group trading profit. Preliminary results for the year to the 31st August show a rise of 7% in group profit before tax and a 10% increase in the dividend, which is accompanied by a share buy back of up to 50m. The company describes its performance as good, despite total revenue for the year being completely flat, with a like for like 4% increase in travel revenue, offsetting the 4% decline in the High Street.

SKY plc SKY has made a strong start to the year with excellent profit growth in the first quarter despite a fall in the UK advertisng market and pressure on consumer spending. Like for like revenue grew by 5% and EBITDA by 11%. In fact whichever part of the business you look at, it has produced growth. Purchases of pay as you go sports and entertainment have risen by 12% and viewings of pay channels are up by 10%. Further growth is expected as the year progresses and the key target is now Europe.

Hays plc HAS produced another record quarterly net fee performance, with widespread growth throughout the group. Continental Europe, again led by Germany, and the rest of the World saw a rise of 13% and 13 additional countries had growth rates in excess of 10%. The UK and Ireland were again laggards with a mere 1%, the temp business being flat and negatively affected by tough market conditions in the public sector. There were also wide and unexplained regional variations in the UK with the South West and Wales up by 14% but the East of England showing a steep decline of 11%

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Petrofac slashes interim dividend by 42%

Petrofac PFC is slashing its interim dividend by 42% to 12.7 cents compared to last years  22 cents, despite what it claims to be a positive start to the year and a rise in net profit from last years US$12m to US$ 70m. for the half year to 30th June. The company is continuing to co-operate with the Serious Fraud Office which launched an investigation into the company in May. The second half of the year is expected to deliver an improvement in operating performance

Fisher (James) FSJ Underlying group revenue for the half year to the 30th June rose by 13% and underlying profit before tax by by 6%, giving a positive start to the year. The interim dividend is to be increased by 10% and there are indications of stronger growth with a good improvement expected in the full year results, following some recovery in maintenance work in the oil and gas sector.

Diploma plc DPLM continued to trade well in the second half of the year and group revenues for the year to the end of September are expected to increase by 17% of which 9% will come from the benefits of sterling depreciation and 2% from acquisitions. With a robust balance sheet the group intends to pursue its policy of acquiring new businesses to accelerate growth.

Paragon Entertainment PEL  claims a ‘credible’ performance  for the six months to the 30th June and that it has done what it set out to do. Unaudited results show  a 45% rise in revenue, whilst underlying operating profit has rise from £106m. to £331m. Basic earnings per share more than tripled from 0.05p per share to 0.18p.

WH Smith SMWH updates that for the year to 31st August, its travel business has produced a strong performance and it has now opened its first three stores in Italian airports.

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BATS Cloaks Itself In Secrecy

British Am. Tobacco BATS has a new policy of keeping its shareholders and investors generally less informed about its financial progress or the lack of it and has stopped issuing interim management statement, replacing them instead with short updates twice a year prior to the start of its closed periods. So all it will tell you with todays update is that the business is trading very well but no figures are quoted to justify that assertion.

All that it will tell is that it has benefited hugely from a currency translation tailwind of 14%, thanks no doubt to the destruction of the value of the pound, by our political leaders. One possible strong point is that full year volume is expected to outperform the market but then it admits that market volume is expected to be down 4%, so in the end that is hardly going to set the share price alight.

WH Smith SMWH has continued to focus on profitable growth with the result that total high street sales fell by 4%, during the 15 weeks to 10th June, as did like for like sales. Travel sales continued to shine with a rise of 8% or 5% like for like but as far as the high street is concerned the lack of focus continues to be alarming.

Bellway BWY experienced strong sales demand and robust market conditions in the period from the 1st February to the 4th June. Volume growth for the year to 31st July is expected to reach 10% and the average selling price should get up to about £260,000  as against last years £252,793. The company also regained its status as a five star housebuilder.

Mulberry Group MUL profit before tax rose by 21% in the year to 31st March with revenue rising by 8% and cash up by 50% to £21m. UK sales did well with a rise of 10%. For the 10 weeks to the 3rd June retail like for like sales rose by 1%. The proposed final dividend remains unchanged at 5p per share.

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RWS Becomes A Major Global Player

RWS Holdings RWS After a strong first half performance, record revenues of not less than £76m are expected for the six months to 31st March, a rise of 33% on 2016. Adjusted profit before tax is expected to show a rise of 36.7%. Following the acquisition of LUZ in February, integration of which has proceeded smoothly, RWS is now a major force in Life Sciences and a premier global supplier of intellectual property support services. This makes it an attractive home for niche companies specialising in these fields. Further expansion and further progress are expected during the remainder of the year.

The share price has risen by over 50% since May 2016 and now stands at 340p.

WH Smith SMWH is increasing its interim dividend by 9%, after what it calls a good first half in which group revenue remained flat but group trading profit rose by 5% and earnings per share by 7%. Travel was particularly strong with a like for like sales rise of 5%.

PageGroup plc PAGE produced a record first quarter with gross profit growth of 9.1%. Regional profits grew strongly on a world wide basis except for the UK which lagged way, way behind and actually managed  to produce a decline of 0.1%, all due it is claimed, believe it or not, to the uncertainties created by Brexit

HydroDec Group HYR First quarter revenue grew by 25% over quarter 1 2016, leading the company to believe that it will have achieved positive EBITDA. Further growth in both revenue and EBITDA is expected for the remainder of the year, as further progress is made in establishing the company as a profitable business.

Tricorn Group TCN benefited from an improvement in trading towards the end of the year with second half revenue up by 7.5% on the first half and 20% on the second half of 2016. The energy division was particularly strong and it is anticipated that adjusted profits before tax for the year to 31st March will now exceed market expectations.

D4t4 Solutions D4T4 expects that profits (excluding foreign exchange gains) will be ahead of current market expectations for the year to the 31st March. Software revenue and recurring revenues both showed strong growth with sales of Cerebrus rising by 48%. The company claims it is in robust shape.

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W. H. Smith “Strong Group Performance” as High Street Falls 4%

W.H. Smith SMWH claims a strong performance across the group for the 21 weeks to 21st January, presumably hoping that nobody will go as far as reading the actual figures which show that High Street revenue actually fell by 4% and only travel revenue with a 10% increase, saved the day enabling Smiths to show a like for like sales increase of 1% and a total increase of 2%. As a result of the success of the travel division, the group expects that profit growth for the group as a whole will be slightly ahead of plan.

Restaurant Group RTN admits to a catalogue of management failures which led to a fall of 5.9% in 4th quarter trading which continued to be challenging and compares badly with a decline of 3.9% over the 53 weeks to1st January.  The decline is to be countered by improving its proposition and its operating processes, building a better business and delivering an attentive and engaging service, One can only hope that the people who failed to cope with the problems in 2016 will be able to deal with them in 2017, The first half of which is expected to be difficult and  no improvement showing until towards the end of the year.

Koovs KOOV is enjoying another year of excellent growth with sales for the 9 months to 31st December showing a rise of 101% and traffic, registered users and social media all up by 100%. The success of its premium party dress collection which sold out in record time, 59% of it within three days of launch has left the company excited about prospects for 2017

McCarthy & Stone MCS saw legal completions for the 20 weeks to the 20th January fall by 2% compared to the previous year as a result of a lower forward order book and a slight slowing in sales momentum since results were announced on the 15th November. Year to date reservations are  currently running ahead and are expected to bring in an extra 5% revenue, due to price increases. Profit before tax for 2017 will be more than usually weighted towards the second half.

Staffline Group STAF is increasing its final dividend by 29% after a year of strong organic growth which saw a rise in revenue of 26%. Underlying profit before tax rose by 30% and undiluted earnings per share by 23%. The company’s success means that it has increased its market share “more than ever”.

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WH Smiths Off On The Road to Recovery

Tesco TSCO  The 40% fall in net debt is probably the best item in Tesco’s preliminary results and they are perhaps entitled to boast of a turn round in quarter 4, except in its home markets of the UK and the Republic of Ireland where it still seems to have lost the plot. Group like for like sales growth for quarter 4 came in at 1.6%, with International showing a healthy 3.8% and Europe 4.1%. But where was the poor old UK ? Last of course, with a miserable rise of 0.9%, beaten by Ireland with 1%, hardly matching the company’s claim that it has become competitive again in those markets, which must be nonsense  when one looks at the growth of its German competitors.

Over the full year Tesco managed to produce zero growth, its performance in Europe and other  wealthier parts of the world overshadowed by continual decline in the UK and Ireland.

The second good thing is that Tesco has actually made a profit for the year of just over £1,046m. compared to the previous year’s disastrous £5 billion loss.

Tesco also proclaims that the customer is once again its prime focus and always will be, which is presumably why it stopped international delivery of online orders. Once again actions showing the emptiness of fair words.

Tesco can be praised for having stopped the rot.  It will be interesting to see how far it can go in the current year to begin growing new shoots.

WH Smith SMWH has at long last enjoyed a strong first half, with profit before tax for the 6 months to 29th February up by 11%. It says something about the state of the company when it can boast that flat like for like sales is its best result for many years. Cynics amongst us had often wondered for how long it could go on squeezing more profit out of declining revenue. What is particularly pleasing i that it has also done well in its traditional markets where stationary and books were particularly strong.

Halfords HFD produced strong quarter 4 growth with revenue for the 11 weeks to 1st April up by 3.2% but cycling became the laggard with Q4 like for like sales up by only 1.9% compared to motoring and car maintenance which rose by 3.5 and 3.9% respectively. Cycling revenue for the full year actially fell by 0.9%.

Telford Homes TEF anticipates profit before tax for the year to 31st March will be slightly above what market expectations as it benefits from continued investor interest and relatively affordable apartments in London where its average price remains comfortably below £600,000.

Walker Greenbank WGB is raising its final dividend by 25% after sales rose by 5.4% and profit before tax by 15.9% as it completes recovery from serious flooding

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