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Corporate news review Friday 4th August 2017

Ascent Resources AST updates on progress with its Petišovci project in Slovenia, and says the installation of the necessary infrastructure to accommodate export production has now been completed. As a result, recertification on the Croatian side of the border is moving towards a positive conclusion.

Merlin Entertainments MERL reports a 0.7% increase in H1 PBT to £50m, on revenues up 19.4%. As the company approaches the peak trading period, it is making good progress across most businesses, but remains cautious on the near term outlook for UK attractions, reflecting the recent terror attacks. Despite this trading uncertainty, Merlin anticipates delivering FY profits in line with current expectations.

Millennium & Copthorne MLC says half-year revenues increased by 16% to £485m, but cautions that there is continuing pressure on the profitability of hotel operations, particularly in North Asia and New York.

Pearson PSON reports a 1% increase in half-year sales to £2,047m, with a statutory operating profit of £16m (H1 2016: £286m loss. The group declared an interim dividend of 5p (2016: 18p) and plans a share buyback of £300m following the announced reduction and recapitalisation of the stake in PRH.

RPS Group RPS reports a 35% hike in interim pre-tax profits to £27.2m, with an equivalent increase in adjusted EPS to 8.71p (2016: 6.44p). Net bank borrowings reduced slightly to £93.4m (June 2016: £95m), and RPS declared a 3% increase in the dividend to 4.80p. CEO Alan Hearne said the strong first half results “enable us to anticipate modestly exceeding market expectations for the full year”.

Royal Bank of Scotland RBS reports H1 operating profit before tax of £1,951m. Adjusted return on equity across PBB, CPB and NatWest Markets was 14.1% compared with 10.9% in H1 2016. Common Equity Tier 1 ratio increased by 70 basis points in the quarter to 14.8%, and remains ahead of the stated RBS target of 13%. RBS retains 2017 FY financial guidance and medium term financial outlook as provided in 2016 Annual Results document.

S & U SUS says trading at motor finance subsidiary Advantage continues at record levels, while Aspen Bridging is proceeding cautiously and gradually establishing itself in the bridging market.

YouGov YOU says trading for the year ended 31 July 2017 is now expected to be ahead of the Board’s previous expectations. YouGov reports another year of revenue growth well ahead of the global market research sector and has maintained the performance trends reported in the first half of the current financial year.

Boom Time For London Hotels

Intl. Con. Airlines IAG saw first quarter profit after tax fall by 74% as passenger revenue declined by 4.2% and total revenue by 2.8%. But this did not stop it being a record breaking first quarter if you decide to select operating profit before exceptionals as your measure That comes in at £170m. compared to £155m last year and creates the new first quarter record.

Interco Hotels Grp IHG For once London led the way with first quarter Rev PAR growing by 12% compared to a meagre 1.9% for the US and 2.7% for the group as a whole, which is regarded as a good start to the year. The quarter produced growth in both rates and occupancy leading to a year on year  net system size growth of 3.4%. Confidence is expressed in the outlook for the full year.

Smith & Nephew SN. First quarter revenue grew by 3% with a good performance from Emerging Markets which returned to double digit growth, with China leading the way at 14%. Knee implants in particular did well which is not surprising when US figures show that some 50% of  knee replacement operations in the US are unnecessary. For the full year, underlying revenue growth of between 3 and 4% is expected.

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels MLC reflected very much the trading performance of its big brother above with growth in both rates and occupancy for the quarter to the 31st March. Profit before tax however, fell by 27.8% despite a rise in RevPAR of 4.6% and London steaming ahead with a rise of 14.5% as the lower pound boosted tourism in the capital. Also the US performance was less than impressive and has raised such concerns that the management structure is being reviewed.

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