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Ian Pollard: Rank Tough Trading Dominates

Rank Group plc RNK describes trading in the first half of the year as tough and looking at the figures that seems to be an understatement, although an improved second quarter seems to have instilled some confidence as to the prospects for a better second half. As for the first half the minus signs overwhelmingly dominate. Profit before tax is down 30.5% or 27.6% on an adjusted basis and earnings per share fell by 23.8%. Apart from digital revenue and digital like for like revenue which rose 5.1% and 15.8% respectively, the only other figure  not showing a minus sign is the interim dividend  which remains unchanged at 2.15 p. per share.

Unilever plc ULVR 2018 showed continued profitable growth in volatile markets.  Adverse currency movements impacted turnover by 6.7% but 4th quarter and full year sales still grew by 2.9% and earnings per share were up by 5.2%. Market conditions were challenging throughout the year, particularly in the second half. Accelerating growth will be the number one priority. for 2019 building on what the company describes as a solid 2018

BT Group Plc BT updates on its nine month and third quarter performances to the 31st December. Reported revenue fell by 1%. but Reported profit before tax rose by 20%. The outgoing Chief Executive was happy that they had continued to deliver consistently against their strategic objectives in a tough market.

Diageo DGE  delivered a strong consistent performance during the six months to the 31st December Reported net sales  rose by 5.8%, operating profit by 11%, driven by organic growth which grew ahead of net sales at 12.3%. and the interim dividend is to be increased by 5% to 26.1p per share. Basic earnings per share declined by 1.3 pence per share.

Dairy Crest Group DCG The four main brands, Cathedral City, Clover, Country Life and Frylight – all delivered strong volume and revenue growth for the third quarter ended 31 December 2018. On a combined basis revenue growth came in at around 10% for the third quarter and 6% for the nine months ended 31 December 2018. Spreads  continue to gain market share. Frylight returned to double digit volume and revenue growth in the third quarter, although a challenging first half saw the nine month figures for the brand decline. The Chief Executive describes the performance of the key brands in the third quarter as having been exceptional.  Brexit is creating significant uncertainty.

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Ian Pollard – Singles Day at Primark

Alibaba invented Singles Day as a shopping celebration for the unattached as opposed to the romanticism of Valentines Day. It is now the world’s biggest online sales event, exceeding the combined totals of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Yesterday saw sales hit a record $1bn in 85 seconds and the total spend for the day came in at $30.8bn, a 27% rise on last year. UK High streets were probably closed for the day unable to think of anything to celebrate and Primark no doubt steadfastly maintaining that online sales damaged its business.

PS; I remember when Archie Norman became boss of ASDA, he introduced a singles night, so that the unattached could exchange erotic glances with each over  the frozen peas. It was in the nineties on a Thursday night and was very well attended. Oh for the sound of trolleys gently bumping into each other.

Diageo DGE  has agreed to sell nineteen brands to Sazerac for $550 million. The net proceeds of approximately £340 million, after tax and transaction costs, will be returned to shareholders through a share repurchase. Completion is expected early in 2019.

Babcock International Group BAB confirms that it strongly refutes the contents of a report issued by Boatman Capital which so far has ensured that it remain anonymous and untraceable. The report included many false and malicious statements and the Group is continuing to seek to discover the identities of those behind Boatman Capital. Babcock is currently delivering 128 contracts for the UK Government. Underlying earnings are in line with expectations and the outlook is confirmed for the financial year ending 31 March 2019.

Amur Minerals AMC admits that the completion of the Pre Feasibility Study has taken longer than initially expected and that the  delay has caused concern. The release of the PFS is now scheduled for Q1 2019. AMC believes that the additional time taken to address points which are of interest to a number of potential partners has greatly enhanced the quality of the content of the Pre Feasibility Study and allowed for the creation a document that more readily meets their expectations. 

Sirius Minerals SXX announces a significant milestone for it in the completion of its major construction procurement programme to support its stage 2 senior debt financing process. Final lender commitment letters are expected to be received in December and January  and  the Company is targeting quarter 1 2019 for the financial close of stage 2 financing.

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Ian Pollard – Diageo Management Full Of Praise For Itself

Image result for diageoDiageo DGE produced a strong performance in the 6 months to the 31st December. All regions contributed to organic net sales growth of 4.2% although organic volume growth was considerably lower at 1.8%.This was all due to constant and rigorous execution of strategy by management – nothing like self praise when things are claimed to be going well, although a fall of 2% in reported growth is hardly consistent and is not thought worthy of particular mention. Basic earnings per share rose by 36.3% and the interim dividend is to be increased by 5% to 24.9p. As for 2018, that is expected to bring in mid single digit top line growth.

SImage result for sky logoKY plc SKY The half year to the 31st December produced a strong set of results. Indeed  the blurb for the half year outcome is almost such a parrot like repetition of that for Diageo that it takes some convincing that they were not both written by the same script writer. In the case of Diageo the excellent performance  was down to “consistent execution of strategy” by management. Now where did I read that before. Like for like revenue rose by 5% and earnings per share by 11%. On a statutory basis operating profit was up by 24% and earnings per share by 39%. 365,000 new customers were signed up and pay as you go buys rose by 8%. .All this was achieved despite a challenging consumer environment. The interim dividend is to be increased by 4% to 13.06 p per share, on top of the previously announced special dividend of 10p per share.Plans for 2018 and beyond are said to be ambitious.

PImage result for paypoint logoaypoint PAY  claims to have “driven” profitable growth in the UK and in Romania where net revenue rose by 42% most of which was accounted for by the acquisition of Payzone. Where exactly it drove this profitable growth to, is difficult to understand as it included a fall of 4.3% in Group retail Networks, a volume fall of 10.5% in UK bill and generals and a net revenue fall of 6.3% in UK retail services.Nonetheless it did have a good day on the 22nd December, its best trading day of the year where processed transactions rose by 67% on the previous year.

Image result for countryside properties logoCountryside Props CSP made a strong start to its year with first quarter completions up by 47% helped by a record year end order book and believe it or not, a fall of 11% in its private average selling price. Perhaps somewhere there is a link between those two sets of figures, which no doubt will be studiously avoided by the rest of the British housebuilding industry

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Kingfisher – Increased Transformation Activity – Profits Fall

Kingfisher plc KGF The jargon filled half year report claims that the six months to 31st July saw a significant increase in the level of transformation activity but it can not hide the fact that sales continued to fall and profits slumped. An increase of 2.5% in the interim dividend will not fool anybody. Sales appear reasonable with a rise of 4.5% until you look at them in constant currency terms which shows a fall of 1.3% Profit figures are given in a variety of guises, all of them bad. In constant currency terms they fell by 4.6%.  On an adjusted basis they were down 5.7% and  basic earnings per share followed suit with a fall of 4.4%  On a statutory basis pre tax profits fell by 5.9% and post tax profits by 8.1%. To add to the misery the company is cautious about what it calls the second half :”backdrop” in France and the UK.

Diageo DGE has issued a trading commentary ahead of its AGM asserting that it is expecting mid single digit top line growth for the current year, relying on the strength of its  marketing, innovation and commercial execution but it expects to be impacted by a late Chinese New Year and an expected motorway ban in India, hardly signs of unbridled confidence.

600 Group plc SIXH updates before todays AGM that its current machine tool order book is up by 60% and industrial lasers by 36%, on the same time last year, which augurs well for trading in the second half of the year.

Cello Group CLL Despite a slight fall in revenue Cello claims an encouraging first half, producing a statutory profit before  tax of £2.7m for the 6 months to the 30th June, compared to a loss of £0.8m last year whilst basic earnings per share came in at 2.16p compared to last years loss of 1.08p per share. The interim dividend is increased by 5%

Science in Sport  SIS experienced continued strong growth in the half year to the 30th June, with revenue rising by 28% and e commerce delivering 87% growth, followed by International with a rise of 55%. Whilst still producing operating losses, profitability at EBITDA level is expected for the full year.

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Lloyds Banking – Another Billion Pounds of Dirty Washing

Lloyds Banking Group LLOY claims it is transforming its Key Customer Journey and if you look at the additional billion pound or so compensation which it is being forced to cough up to customers whom it cheated over the years, it certainly needed transforming. In the second quarter it had to make additional provision of 700m as PPI claims against it rose above previous expectations. Then in the same quarter came a further hit of 340m. as it was forced to reimburse mortgage arrears fees which it had illegally charged to customers. And this is not some fly by night hole in the wall operation, its a bank for god’s sake which claims it wants customers to trust it with their money.

As for its half years results Lloyds claims to have produced another strong set, with the UK economy in resilient mode. The interim dividend is being increased by 18%. Underlying profit for the six months to the 30th June rose by 8% whilst statutory profit before tax was up by 4% and operating costs were down by 1%.

Diageo DGE reports operating profit up by 25% and net sales up 15% for the year to 30th June. On a like for like basis operating profit rose by 5.6%. With basic earnings per share up by 18%, the final dividend is being increased by5% and a share buy back program is announced of up to 1.5 billion pounds.

Weir Group WEIR North America has produced what it describes as a great set of results for the half year to 30th June, with both main businesses moving from an intense downturn into a recovery and growth phase. Revenue growth in North America reached 69% and generally growth overall accelerated, enabling an upgrade to be made to full year guidelines. Growth in orders of 11%has put Weir in a position where it can deliver strong constant currency revenue and profit growth for the full year. Despite that profit before tax on a constant currency basis is still down by 8%, although on a reported basis, there is a rise of 12%. The interim dividend remains unchanged at 15p per share.

Rentokil RTO is increasing its interim dividend by 15.2% for the half year to the 30th June afte a 12.5% rise in adjusted profit before tax and 10.9% in adjusted earnings per share. On a like for like basis revenue grew by 4.2%. The CEO i pleased with the continued momentum of the business.

Tate & Lyle TATE has made an encouraging start to the year with first quarter profits in constant currency terms, and volume both ahead of last year. Volume growth was strong in Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.Only North America was soft, with modest volume growth.

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Major Companies Blame Challenging Conditions Again

Rank Group RNK met challenging trading conditions in the 6 months to 31st December but is still raising its interim dividend by 11% after a fall of 17% in profit before tax and 14% in basic earnings per share. Like for like group revenue for the half year rose by 2%. Nothing like raising  a dividend when the going gets tough.

Diageo DGE  is raising its interim dividend by 5% after a stronger performance produced a rise of 14.5% in reported net sales and 28% in operating profit for the 6 months to the end of December. On a like for like basis, operating profit grew by 4.4% and basic earnings per share were up by 20% at 60.3p.

SKY plc SKY produced a strong first half performance with operating profit falling only 10% to £679m, after absorbing £314m of additional Premier League costs. Revenue rose by 12% and earnings per share fell by 5%. strongest growth came in Germany & Italy with rises of 10% and 9% at constant currency rates and the UK lagging behind with only 5%

Unilever ULVR saw core turnover fall by 1% in 2016, which ended with tough market conditions.Core earnings per share fell by 7% or 3% at current exchange rates. Sales rose by 4.3% at constant exchange rates. emerging markets  performed much better with underlying growth of 6.5%. A slow start is expected to 2017 with tough market conditions expected to continue into the first half. Europe has been particularly challenging with subdued volume growth   and price deflation in many countries.

Whitbread plc WTB produced third quarter total sales growth of 8.6% but this masked a patchy like for like position. Restaurants fell by 1.5% on a like for like basis but Costa rose by 4.3% and the total came in at 1.7%

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Majestic Wine -Testing Before Learning

Majestic Wine WINE  appears to have been so mismanaged that it has been forced to issue an update, warning that it will not even achieve its modest target of 1% sales growth for the current year. EBIT for the year to 3rd April 2017 will be £2m.less than market expectations as a result of the first half having been more challenging than expected. Sales growth is flat and gross margins % is down by 200 basis points. That dreaded event, an internal review, is said to be underway.

Naked Wines in the US will move back back into loss as a result of new initiatives which did not work and which are having to be abandoned. The company claims that test and learn in a market the size of the US, is expensive but most companies would learn, at least something first and test later. Majestic however did the opposite and then management wonders why it has got the company into a pickle. Perhaps there should be an internal review at a higher level.

Diageo DGE has started 2017 well and performance will be stronger than last year claims the company, with key drivers being scotch, US spirits and India.

SAGA plc SAGA Everything about Saga’s first half has been robust, especially the interim dividend which is being raised by  a robust 23%. Travel has put in a robust trading performance, the operational performance has been robust, as has the financial performance. Hopefully the CEO will be given a robust lesson in how to vary his adjectives a bit, next time round. Profit before tax rose by 8.5% for the six months to 31st July and like for like basic earnings per share were up by 8.2%. All this was achieved despite a competitive environment and the company is on track to meet its full year targets.

32Red TTR is raising its interim dividend by 18% for the half year to 30th June after profit before tax modestly surged by 2,630% following a 63% rise in total net gaming revenue. Both revenue and EBITDA rose to record levels, with strong growth across the business and its brands. Growth has continued into the second half and on a like for like basis it is up by 4%.

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Live charting on TipTV with Zak Mir & Brand CEO Alan Green

An array of Indices and Stocks were covered by Zak Mir, Technical Analyst for Zak’s Traders Cafe, and Alan Green, CEO of Band Communications, on the Tip TV Finance Show. Topics Covered: FTSE 100, DAX, BLT, AAL, CPI, IMT, BATS, DGE, JDW, GKP, MOIL

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