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Ian Pollard – Intercontinental #IHG; Year Of Excellent Progress, Divi Up 10%

Intercontinental Hotels Grp IHG presents a jargon riddled preliminary report for the year to the 31st December which makes for difficult reading, not  made any easier by giving its readers a choice between Segment results and Group results. which excludes exceptional items, except for basic earnings per share. Group results show a 6% rise in revenue, operating profit down by 7% and basic earnings per share down by 34%. The total dividend is to be increased by 10% after what the CEO describes as a year of excellent progress, which delivered a strong set of financial results.

Greggs plc GRG updates that it has made an exceptionally strong start to 2019 with total sales up 14.1% for the seven weeks to 16 February after a strong finish to 2018. Credit goes in the main to the exceptional sales performance  following the January launch of its vegan-friendly sausage roll which apparantly received extensive publicity for some reason. At least it made a change from Brexit headlines.The Board now anticipates that 2019 full year underlying profit before tax  is likely to be ahead of previous expectations.

First Group plc FGP Delivers a winter update which recognises that overall conditions in its markets remain uncertain, and poor weather retains the potential to affect its performance. Reported Group revenue growth for the year to date comes in at 13.7% supporting an unchanged outlook for the full year. Greyhound continues to face a difficult trading environment in some markets.A disappointing operating performance for passengers is recognised at First Rail. This resulted in like-for-like passenger revenue growth slowing  to 4.2%. and is blamed on significant infrastructure challenges.

Spectris plc SXS produced a 2018 performance which was slightly ahead of expectations and on a statutory basis delivered good LFL sales growth of 5% during the year to the 31st December.Profit before tax rose by 22%, basic earnings per share by 20% and the dividend is to be increased by 8%. The new Chief Executive says that Group would benefit from becoming a more focused and simplified business.

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Ian Pollard – Second Class Performance From First Group #FGP

First Group plc FGP The year to the 31st March saw adjusted operating profit fall by 10% on a constant currency basis and a statutory loss before tax reflected in part, the onerous provisions of the contracts on Trans Pennine rail franchises, carefully omitting to mention that these onerous provisions were not forced on the company, it actually volunteered for them. The CEO departs from the company today. Revenue at constant currency rose by 14% during the year but the statutory loss before tax more than doubled from 152.6m. to 326.9m. and earnings per share tumbled from 9.3p per share to a loss of 24.6p. At Greyhound like for like revenue fell by 0.7% as it failed to meet the competition of ultra low cost airlines. Admissions are also made that Great Western and South Western have operational challenges to overcome. Taken all in all a bit of a second class performance all round.

Johnson Matthey JMATT The year to the 31st March was a year of significant progress with sales on an underlying basis and excluding precious metals, rising by 8% and profit before tax by 1%. It is proposed to increase the final dividend by 7%. Mid to high single digit growth in operational performance is expected in the current year, with the second half being stronger than the first.

Card Factory plc CARD provides an update on first quarter trading to the 30th April and “tough trading environment” gets three mentions in a comparatively short release. The first is to headline the tough trading environment, the second is to stress that it did not prevent a solid seasonal performance and group like for like sales only fell by 0.4%  which is regarded as a robust performance. Nor was it so tough that it prevented anticipation to return further cash to shareholders, towards the end of the current year.

Brady plc BRY The executive chairman claims to be delighted to be able to report that the company has failed to exceed its management expectations during the first four months of the year and announces that he regards that as substantial progress.

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Ian Pollard – Glencore #GLEN Strongest Performance on Record

Glencore GLEN claims that its 2017 performance was the strongest on record with industrial adjusted EBITDA rising by 60% and basic earnings per share by 310%, helped by rising commodity prices which are completely outside the control of the company and a strong unit cost performance for which it must be given credit. Net debt fell by a hefty 31%. As for the future it believes that its unrivalled positioning and commodity diversification can create superior long term value for all stakeholders – until the next commodity slump that is but in the meantime enjoy the ride.

First Group FGP updates that reported revenue for the year to date rose by 10.7% but in constant currency terms that was reduced to 1.1%. Greyhounds long haul business was affected by intense airline competition. Even the weather with heavy snowstorms on the eastern sea board as far down as Florida, proved to be a challenge.  Modest first half growth at Greyhound has turned into a decline of 0.4% for the year to date as the second half worsened with a 2.8% decline for the period from the end of September to January. At First Rail like for like passenger revenue rose by 3.2% both for the year to date and for the second half so far. TransPennine Express is described as producing industry leading growth which has got even stronger with the introduction of its new fleet in the autumn.

Bilby plc BILB Revenue and profitability for the year to the end of March will be ahead of current market expectations as the company continues to win new clients, new contracts and invitations from existing and long term customers to broaden the scope of work which it provides.Excellent customer service is regarded by the company as the clue to its success.

Gooch & Housego GHH is experiencing exceptional demand for critical components used in micro electric manufacturing, the order book as at the beginning of January stood at record levels with a rise of 48% compared to the same tie lasy year and put icing on the cake, overall market conditions are good.

Hotel Chocolat Group HOTC announces another period of strong sales growth for the half year to 31st December, with revenue, underlying EBITDA, profit before and after tax and earnings per share all rising by 15%. An interim dividend of 0.6p per share is to be paid following the maiden dividend of 1.6p at the year end in September. Mothers Day, Easter and Valentines Day results are all being looked forward to eagerly.

Inspirational Healthcare Group IHC has continued to perform strongly in the second half, as forecast the the half tear stage. Full year profit are expected to be in line.

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Weak Sterling Helps Save The Day For First Group

First Group FGP claims a significant improvement in operating results for the year to 31st March despite a mixed trading environment and with the benefit of a large helping hand from favourable currency movements. Profit before tax increased by 34.4%, earnings per share by 24% and statutory operating profit by 15.1%. Revenue was up by 8.3% but without the collapse of sterling it would not have been up at all, in fact on a constant currency basis it was down by 0.5% which puts that “significant improvement” into perspective. First Bus and First Rail both faced challenging market conditions, with like for like First Bus revenue falling by 0.6%.

The company claims it is concentrating on the service improvements which its customers tells it they want, which appears to be virtually an admission that management hadn’t a clue what level of service it should be providing until its customers started trying to get the message through.

Johnson Matthey JMAT A stronger second half provided evidence of an improving performance which in turn has enabled the final dividend to be increased by 5%. Profit before tax for the year to the end of March rose by 19%, earnings per share by 21% and revenue by 12%. Revenue at constant exchange rates and on a like for like basis grew by 3% over the year but in the second half that figure doubled to 6%, helped by the company’s world leading science and technology. Growth in Europe was particularly strong. In the current year sales growth is expected to match the 6% of 2017’s second half and beyond 2018 expectations are for deliver of sustained sales growth and margin expansion.

Watkin Jones WJG is increasing its interim dividend by 10% after a strong half year which produced strong profit growth. Adjusted profit before tax and EBITDA each rose by 26.6% for the six months to the 31st March, despite an expected 8.4% fall in revenue.

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First Group (FGP) – Excuses, Excuses

First Group’s interim results were bad enough with adjusted profit before tax down 32.7% and operating profit by 14.7% for the six months to the end of September. Unbelievably the third quarter seems to have got worse, with what passes for management, being forced to produce what must be one of the longest list of excuses ever seen in a trading update, in a forlorn attempt to exonerate itself.

Hang on though, it was only in November that it was claiming “outperformance” in some areas but now it is saying that operating profit will be lowered because of the third quarter challenges  which it could not cope with.

Group revenue for the quarter fell by 9.5% unless you exclude the factors responsible for the fall, in which case it actually rose by 0.9%. That is a bit like saying if I had not withdrawn all my money from the bank, I would still be wealthy.

The latest decline in the company’s fortunes is due, it claims, to;

Changes in the school calendar which means that some income will appear in next years accounts, rather than this.

Changes to the rail franchise portfolio.

A reduction in high street footfall

Exceptionally wet weather and flooding

Acute driver shortages in the USA leading to higher costs

Substantial reductions in the oil price.The company makes no mention of this hidden benefit  having enabled it to bring costs down. Instead it claims it impacted the company by reducing demand for shuttle services to the Canadian oil sands.

A revenue fall of 5.2% at Greyhound buses, caused by the oil price fall leading to reduced demand. No mention of cost savings resulting from this.

First Rail – slower growth after the Paris terrorist attacks

Fear not though, the company’s transformation plans are making headway.

First groups share price has fallen 4% this morning and now stands at 98p.  Five years ago it was 400p and it has, not surprisingly, been falling ever since. Today’ trading update is not likely to stop the rot. The company  seems to be relying on hopes that its transformation plans will do the job.

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