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Ian Pollard – Direct Line #DLG delivers a robust fall in premiums

Direct Line Ins. Group DLG claims to have delivered a robust third quarter performance in a competitive market. Robust in this particular case being defined as a fall of 5.6% in gross written premiums, compared to the same quarter in 2017, Perhaps this is a definition which not many outside the company could bring themselves to agree with.

Wm. Morrison Supermarkets MRW The third quarter to the 4th November saw another period of strong growth, with group like for like sales, excluding petrol, rising by 5.6%. Apart from the second quarter this was well above the growth rate for any quarter since the beginning of 2017.  Including petrol the rise was 6%. Retail like for like sales for the quarter weakened slightly without the impact of favourable weather and the World Cup in the second quarter.

Imperial Brands IMB  Claims strong financial delivery for the year to the 30th September, with revenue and earnings growth and high cash generation. . On a reported basis revenue rose by 0.9% and operating profit by 5.7%. Earnings per share fell by 2.7% but the dividend benefited from a further increase of 10%. The company grits its teeth and claims to be pleased with the progress it is making in creating something better for the world’s smokers despite that meaning a fall of 3.6% in total tobacco volume.

DS Smith plc SMDS updates that it expects return on sales and adjusted operating profit in the half-year to 31st October will be materially ahead of the comparable period. This follows recovery of increased input costs earlier in the year and good volume growth..Good ongoing volume and market share growth is expected for the remainder of the year and the company is quite excited about the prospects for Europac which it is in the process of acquiring and which will lead to further expansion in its Iberian market.

William Hill plc WMH is looking to the US becoming its jewel in what would otherwise begin to look like a somewhat tarnished crown. In the year to date online net revenue rose by 4%, whilst retail net revenue fell by 4%. In the US however existing business revenue surged ahead  by 29% following a Supreme Court decision in May. The company has now built on its market leading position in Nevada, to make rapid progress in other states as they legalise sports betting. It has already become the only company to be taking sports bets in the first five states to have regulated sports betting Its goal is to be in every state.

Purplebricks Group plc PURP has continued to make good progress in the six months ended 31 October 2018 with year-on-year revenue growth of approximately 20%. It has continued to win market share against a challenging market backdrop in the UK., whilst in Canada where it only opened on the 18th July the  business is performing strongly and in line with the company’s high expectations.

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Ian Pollard – Redrow #RDW hikes dividend by a massive 65%

Redrow plc RDW has delivered another year of strong growth, record results and an excellent trading performance, with the number of new houses sold during the year rising by 9%. and the full year dividend hiked by a massive 65%. The average selling price was hiked by 7% during the year which some cynics may argue is way way above the general rate of inflation. but in the housebuilding industry with its friends in government, who cares.  Group revenue rose by 16% to a record £1.92bn. Profit before tax also hit a new record  with a 21% rise to £380m and earnings per share were up by 22%.

WPP plc WPP The new Chief Execuive, Mike Read, goes on the attack with an opening statement announcing the interim results and stressing that the second quarter of 2018 was WPP’s first quarter of like-for-like growth since Q1 2017.and that it has performed strongly in terms of winning and retaining business over the half year.Profit before tax rose by 8.5% or 14.2% on a constant currency basis and profit after tax by 11.3% or 16.8% . Billings on a constant currency basis rose by 4.1% and revenue by 2.9%. The interim dividend remains unchanged. at 22.7p per share.

DS Smith plc SMDS continues to be excited by its prospects and has enjoyed good like for like volume growth in all geographical sectors, in the quarter since the 1sr May. In particular the north America paper and packaging division, has performed very strongly.

Halfords Group plc HFD updates for the first 20 weeks of the current year that the trading environment remained challenging. Revenue rose by 3.9%, car maintenance leading the way with a rise of 4.5%. Guidance for the year remains unchanged.

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Ian Pollard – Special Dividends Day

Ferrexpo plc FXPO is to pay a special dividend of 3.3 cents per share, thereby doubling the interim dividend paid on the 8th September. The explanation as to why this has become almost a necessity is so long winded that  the company appears to have guilt feelings over having to do it. The shortened version is that it has continued to trade strongly since announcing its interim results in August and this has enabled it to reduce net debt, fund capital expenditure, on top of which there is strong demand outlook for pellets in 2018 and in any event when one is awash with so much, cash one really has to do something with it.

Stobart Group STOB is also joining in the fun and announced that it too will  pay a further interim dividend of 4.5p per share which also doubles its interim dividend paid on the 6th October. A further similar payment will also be made on the 18th April. The group has sufficient non operating asset resources to keep this going until 2022, after which it will go back to that old fashioned habit of paying dividends out of profits. Other than that no explanation is given other than this what they said they would do, at the AGM back in June.

Smith DS SMDS is delighted with organic volume growth which accelerated to 5.2% in the half year to the 31st October, with all regions sharing in the growth and the increase in the paper price progressing as expected. The interim dividend is to be increased by 7% after djusted operating profit and earnings per share grew by 11% and 6% respectively. Profit before tax fell by 1% and on a statutory basis, earnings per share were down by14%. An acquisition in Romania is due to be completed in January and there are further exciting growth opportunities in both Europe and in North America.

Circle Property plc CRC produced a strong operational and financial performance for the year to the 30th September and the interim dividend is to be increased by 8.3%. Rental income for the year rose by 26% and net operating profit was up by 57% with NAV per share rising by 15.3%

RM plc RM expects that results for the year to the 30th November will be ahead of expectations following second half revenue growth and a resilient performance resulting from the 2016 restructuring.

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Wood Group weak in the East

by Ian Pollard

Wood Group plc WG has faced continued challenges in its core oil and gas markets in the 6 months to 30th June, with weak activity in the East more than offsetting a robust performance in the West. The first half is down on that of 2016 and is weaker than hoped for but it is expected that the second half will be stronger and it is still intended to pursue what it describes as a progressive dividend policy.

Greene King GNK announces record results for the 52 week to 30th April, after revenue for the year rose by 6.9% to record levels. On an adjusted basis, profit before tax rose by 6.6% but basic earnings per share were down by 23.9%. The final dividend is to be raised by 3.6%. At the Pub company likwe for like sales rose by 1.5%. outperforming the market after a good Xmas, a stronger fourth quarter and Greene King locals doing well.

DS Smith SMDS is increasing its dividend by 19% after another year of good growth for the 12 months to 30th April with organic volume up by 3.2%. Profit before tax rose by 16%, 5 acquisitions were made during the year and progress has continued into the new year. Momentum is now providing confidence in further growth to come.

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