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Corporate news review Monday 24 July 2017

Cranswick CWK – reports a positive start to the current financial year, with 3-month revenues to June 30 up 27%, while net debt of £18m is down £4m on this time last year. The board is confident in both outlook and continued long-term success and development of the business.

Earthport EPO – FY revenues are up c33% to £30.3m, with a adjusted EBITDA losses reduced by c65% to £2.4m Group cash balances at June 30 stood at £11.9m vs. £14.4m this time last year.

Mortice MORT – reports a 36.7% hike in FY revenues to $181.01m, with EBITDA up 114 % to $10.3 m. Following the pacing last December, Mortice reports net debt of $13.5m and balance sheet flexibility to pursue growth opportunities.

Ryanair RYA – Q1 results: CEO Michael O’Leary said the 55% increase in PAT of €397m was distorted by the absence of Easter in the prior year Q1. Highlights include: Traffic up 12% to 35m, load factor +2% to 96%, Av fare up 1% to €40.30, unit costs down 6%, €200m+ returned to shareholders via share buybacks and 397 B737’s in fleet at end of Q1.

Petra Diamonds PDL – issues a FY 2017 trading update and reports an 8% increase in FY production to 4.0 Mcts, with revenue up 11% to $477m. PDL reports year end cash of $205m, vs. $46.1m this time last year, and with Capex now in decline, debt levels will start to fall, expects to become free cashflow positive during FY 2018.

SThree STHR – reports encouraging H1 with accelerated momentum in Q2. Operating profits grew 26% year on year to £19.m, and the group reports a strong financial position with net cash of £5.2m, vs/ £4.4m debt this time last year. Says the macro-economic environment remains uncertain.

Reckitt Benckiser RB. – reports half-year net revenue of £5,017m, down -1%. The results include half a month of trading from Mead Johnson Nutrition, acquired on 15 June. RB CEO says the FY net revenue target of +2% LFL growth is a challenging target amid tough market conditions, and there is work to do on addressing the full implications of the recent cyber-attack.

W.H. Ireland WHI – reports a 24% increase in H1 revenue to £14.9m, with pre-exceptional operating profits of £0.4m. WHI remains optimistic about the outlook for the second half of 2017 and the foundations for future growth into 2018.

Aerospace industry taxis out for take-off

As a part time aviation buff, I probably take more note than others of the comings and goings at the Paris Air Show. The mood this year was very upbeat, with European Civil Aerospace very much in the ascendency.

Although demand remains healthy, the very nature of the industry structure means there are a relative a small number of major manufacturers. This doesn’t mean the manufacturers can monopolise – far from it. Pricing remains competitive in civil aviation, and means that company boardrooms have a constant battle to maintain margin.

After ferrying new French President Macron to open the Paris Air Show, Airbus (EPA: AIR) announced a deal for 100 single-aisle A320neo planes in its first big move, a real coup considering the firm is constantly battling US giant Boeing for orders amid burgeoning competition from China. This will create years of work for the global workforce. It’s thought that the firm had firm commitments for some $11bn worth of planes.

Not to be outdone, Boeing (NYSE: BA) unveiled plans for a newer and bigger version of its 737 Max aircraft, more or less declaring war on Airbus in the market for narrow-body passenger jets.

Boeing announced firm orders for more than 45 planes worth some $5.4bn. Buyers included Ryanair, China’s Okay Airways and the Aviation Capital Group leasing company. Pledges for a further 83 planes could be worth as much as $9.3bn.

However, with huge order backlogs for both firms, new orders aren’t perhaps the all important share price drivers that some might think. Airbus has accused Boeing of discounting narrow-body prices to win back market share, putting downward pressure on its suppliers. In addition aviation technology group Safran (EPA: SAF) has accused Pratt & Whitney, owned by United Technologies Corp (NYSE: UTX) of discounting engines in competition against the General Electric / Safran LEAP engine.

While it can be argued that the CA aftermarket industry offers greater upside risk than the aircraft manufacturers themselves, the low oil price means it makes greater economic sense to keep older planes in service, providing a welcome boost for the industry future. This view is lent further credence by upbeat forecasts from several companies, including UTC, Aero Systems, GE and Honeywell, who all said their 2017 aftermarket sales could be better than expected. And with the number of new planes coming off warranty, this looks set to continue.

So in summary, investing in the aircraft manufacturers directly, or the aftermarket industry looks to be a fairly safe place for your money. Emerging markets continue to fulfil the aircraft sales quota, while maintaining planes out of warranty is looking increasingly lucrative for the future. It might even be said that rather than taxiing out to the runway, the industry is awaiting clearance for take-off!

Next Finds Horror On The High Street

Next NXT issues a stark warning about current profits and the level of both this years and next years sales. It failed to live up to its own expectations for 4th quarter sales in the face of what it describes as exceptional levels of uncertainty. Between the 1st November and 24th December sales fell by 0.4%. For the year to 24th December they fell by 1.1% even after taking into account new selling space. Even worse, end of season Sales were down by 7%. Group profit before tax for the full year to 17th January is now expected to be down by 3.6% and the downturn is  expected to continue  with a further warning that the company is budgeting for full price sales for 2017-18 to be down by a further 4.5%.

Ryanair RYA On the back of lower fares, December traffic surged by 20% to 9m passengers with load factor rising by 3% over a year ago. Even lower fares are promised for the coming summer.

Staffline Group STAF has experienced strong second half trading and expects full year profits to be announced on 25th January, will be in line.

Spectra Systems SPSY  Expects that profits for the year to 31st December will significantly exceed expectations, with revenue also ahead.

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Will Brussels Ban Referendums

The Italian’s have done it.  They have joined the growing list of countries whose peoples are sick and tired of their political establishments living lives completely divorced from the realities of the ordinary workaday world which most of us inhabit. The referendum has become the stock, shock weapon  for taming the arrogant political elites of the world. The only question now is whether the bureaucrats of Brussels will try to find a way of banning them as being in breach of the Maastricht treaty or any other nonsensical reason they can think up for saving their tax free privileged lives and their dictatorial powers. Perhaps the usual catch all of health and safety would be appropriate.

As we forecast on Friday as a strong possibility, the Euro has fallen sharply this morning to over 1.20 to the pound bringing our currency speedily back to levels which our economic commentators and experts proclaimed would not be seen again for many a year. And this is only the beginning, The Italians now have to face an election with the possibility of Beppe Grillo as the winner.

Filtronic FTC traded strongly in the 6 months to the end of November and expects unaudited first half revenues will have reached £21.6m  almost five times the total of £4.5m for the whole of 2016. The company cautions however that its success is based primarily on sales to one lead customer of its new ultra wide band antenna.

Ryanair RYA November traffic grew by 15% over last year, to 8.8m customers and load factor was up by another 2% to 95%. The airline advised customers to book their flights now for next summer

Purplebricks Group PURP claims to have caused a seismic shift in the UK estate agency market with its fixed fee revolution. Revenue for the 6 months to the end of October rose by 159%, exceeding the total for the whole of 2016. Gross profit for the half year surged from £4.1m to £10.2m and average revenue per customer rose by over 20%.

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Ryanair Beats The Competition

Ryanair Holdings RYA has more than halved its planned UK growth from 12% to 5% because of weaker sterling and slower economic growth. For the half year to 30th September profits rose by 7% on fares down by 10% and unit costs also down by 10%. Basic earnings per share for the half year rose by 15%. Some competitors have been  unable to stand the competition and have closed bases and routes. The 18% fall in sterling has reduced full year guidance by 75m Euro.

Hiscox HSX In the 9 months to 30th September material foreign exchange gains helped Hiscox to increase gross written premiums by 20.9%, compared to 14.3% in local currency. All segments put in a strong performance but Hiscox London Market and Hiscox RE continued to find trading conditions difficult and margins are evaporating in some areas.

Keywords Studios KWS Revenues and adjusted profit before tax will be significantly ahead of current market expectations for the year to 31st December, with adjusted profit before tax   expected to be not less than 14m. Euro.

Fevertree Drinks FEVR   has continued to perform strongly in the second half, particularly in the UK and anticipates that results for the year to 31st December will be materially ahead of current market expectations.

EKF Diagnostics EKF  Revenue and adjusted EBITDA will exceed current market expectations for the year to the end of December. Early fourth quarter trading has been materially higher than budget and exceeds the previous revised figures.

Dignity DTY Underlying operating profit fell by 2.9% in the 39 weeks to the end of September, slightly ahead of expectations, as the number of deaths declined by 2.9% at the same time as the company lost market share.

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Wetherspoon Worried By High Debt Risks

Wetherspoon JDW First quarter like for like sales rose by 3.5% and total sales by 2.3%. Operating margins gowever jumped from last year’s 5.8% to 8.6% and 7% is anticipated for the full year. The rise in debt levels have become a cause for concern, indeed such a cause for concern that the company thought it necessary to reassure its major shareholders, whilst at the same time admitting that they have clearly involved significant risks. Over each of the last three years debt levels  has risen substantially and now stands at another record of 3.47 times EBITDA

Persimmon PSN The housing boom has continued to go from strength to strength since half year results were announced on the 23rd August and private sales have risen by 19%. This continues the trend experienced earlier in the summer and Persimmon is now fully sold for the current year, with consumer confidence described as “resilient”.

Just Eat plc JE Strong growth led to a rise of 34% in third quarter like for like orders, with the UK producing a rise of 28%. Full year expectations have again been increased slightly


Ryanair RYA October traffic grew by 13% thanks to cheaper fares and the load factor rose by a further 1% to 95%.

Next NXT expected difficult trading in quarter three and got it, with full price sales down by 3.5% compared to -1.5% for the nine months to date. October did see a recovery with a significant improvement in sales. The range of full year sales guidance has been narrowed down from -1.75% to + 1.25% compared to the previous range of -2.5% to +2.5%

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McCarthy & Stone – Orders Down, Cancellations Up, Incentives Back.

McCarthy & Stone MCC is yet another housebuilder hoping that the warning signs of a pending slowdown in the housing market can be ignored and, like all the others it seems to be living in the hope that good times can  and will go on for ever.  For the year to the 31st August, its first as a public company, it enjoyed robust growth, with a revenue rise of 31%, legal completions up by 20% and £52m cash in the bank at the year end. It credits its success on its continued focus on operational excellence and concentrating its efforts on the demand for retirement homes. Its net average selling price rose by 8% because of what it claims was increased quality.

That is now history and the future presents a more gloomy prospect.

The order book is down some 12% on a year ago. Incentives are back and you have not heard much of those in the house building industry for many a year but in recent weeks their use has become necessary to ensure that the volume growth target can be met. Since the company’s last update as recently as the 29th June, weakness in the secondary housing market has become apparent. Perhaps worst of all, cancellations have risen and there is now a fear that continued market weakness could lead to a failure by the company to achieve its 15% planned growth target.

Eckoh plc ECK  has been forced to issue a surprise profit warning as management appears to have bitten off more than it can chew, with the disastrous acquisition of Product Support Solutions which has a significant presence in the US and which has suffered from cost over runs on a large, complex, fixed price contract which is expected to lead to losses of £700,000 for that division alone.  PSS is now to be closed down and as it was acquired less than a year ago in November 2015, questions must be raised about the effectiveness of Ecko’s management at the time and the due diligence it performed on PSS. Perhaps not surprisingly, today’s update remains silent on the point.

To add to the damage Eckoh  has changed its pricing formula thereby leading to a fall in short and medium term margins. The result of all this, is that pre tax profits for the current year will be below market expectations and  probably in line with last years results.

Ryanair RYA happily announces that its great success continues, with August traffic up by 11% or 16% on an annual rolling basis. Load factor again rose, by 1% and customers will be pleased to know that average fares over the next 6 months are expected to fall by some 10 – 12%

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Ryanair Succeeds Despite 1,000 Flight Cancellations

Ryan Air Holdings RYA suffered from over 1,000 flight cancellations in its first quarter, due to terrorism and strikes by French air traffic controllers, which have become such a problem that it has asked the EU to force the French to arbitrate instead of strike. Despite this, customer numbers rose by 11% but fares fell 10% to under 40 Euro leaving revenue for the quarter up by only 2%.  Load factor did well with a further rise of 2 points to 94%.

Profit after tax for the quarter rose by 4% and basic earnings per share by 12%. 133 new routes will be opened in 2016. Ryanair is disappointed by Brexit but is unable to predict the effects, save that downside risks are felt to be greater.

Petra Diamonds PDL experienced further strong growth and record production for the year to 30th June but like for like rough diamond prices fell by 6% during the year leading to only a 1% rise in revenue. The prospects for 2017 look much better, with diamond prices having stabilised and production expected to rise by a further 25-30%, helping the company to achieve its 2018 targets, a year early.

Cranswick plc made a positive start to its year with strong volume growth of 12% in the 3 months to 30th June leading to an 11% rise in revenue. The company is selling its sandwich business with a turnover of £54m., for a consideration of £15m.

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Ryanair – The Success Story Continues

Ryanair RYA The Ryanair success story continues with a 43% rise in profit after tax following a 16% rise in revenue and 18% in passengers, whilst the opening of over 100 new routes saw it become the first airline to carry over 100 million passengers in a calendar year.

Basic earnings per share rose by 48%, average fares were cut by 1% and unit costs fell by 6%. Load factor has risen from 83% to 93% in two years. 2017 full year net profit is expected to rise by 13% subject to the strength of sterling.

Michael O’ Leary has both feet planted firmly in the Remain camp, reminding us quite rightly that it was the EU which forced airline deregulation on the high fare cartel of Europe’s national carriers, thus ushering in the era of budget airlines and cheap fares. That though, was in the eighties and the EU 30 years on is quite a different beast to what it was then. Now it would probably be giving national carriers all the protection they asked for and doing all it could to ensure that Ryanair never flew a single plane. He also warns that exit from the EU will be a long drawn out process, creating a lot of uncertainty.

MITIE Group MTO despite a 1.8% fall in revenue, Mitie claims to have had a good year, with strong profit and margin growth. Preliminary results for the year to the end of March show profit before tax surging by 133% to £11.25m and basic earnings per share up by 119.6%. The final dividend is being raised by 3.4% to 12.1p. per share, the 27th consecutive increase.

Stride Gaming STR is to pay a maiden interim dividend of 1.1p per share for the 6 months to the end of February after a 21% rise in net revenue and 42% in adjusted earnings followed a period of what the company describes as robust growth.


Cerillion CER is also paying a maiden interim dividend of 1.3p for the six months to the end of March. New orders for the half year rose by 50%, revenue by 11%, like for like revenue by 22% and adjusted profit before tax by 19%. The company says that the strong profit growth was in line with management expectations.

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Sainsbury’s Doing Well in Financial Services – The Problem Is Food

J. Sainsbury SBRY has been forced to cut its final dividend, even if only by a small amount,0.1p or 1.2%, making a total cut for the year of of 8.3%. It claims a strong performance in clothing, general merchandise and financial services which, coming from a food store, indicates a problem or two with the food side of the business. Group sales for the full year fell by 1.1% and like for like by 0.9%. Underlying profit before tax slumped by 13.8% and basic earnings per share were down by 8.3%

Ryanair RYA hit new records in April with traffic growing by 10% to 9.9 million and customer load factor up by 2% points to 93% and all achieved despite strikes by air traffic controllers in a number of European countries. Annual traffic growth over the past 12 months now stands at 12%.  What was that Willie Walsh was saying about weak markets only a few days ago – test – how many can tell me accurately and now what his airline’s name is, this year.

SHELL RDSA First quarter cash flow nearly disappeared with a fall of 91%, whilst first quarter income was down by 89% as the oil crisis savaged the company. Shell fought back with cost cuts and with strong results from Downstream and Integrated Gas. The combination with BG also got off to a strong start.

JD Wetherspoon JDW saw third quarter like for like sales grow by 3.8% and total sales up by 5.5%.  Nineteen pubs have been closed since the start of the financial year of which only 8 have been sold but 16 new openings are expected for the year. The full year outcome is expected to be reasonable.

Direct Line DLG claims another quarter of top line growth on which it is aiming to build fir the rest of 2016. First quarter gross written premiums rose by 4.2% with Motor & Home being singled out as strong.  despite the no of policies in force has actually fallen over the past 12 months, with only Motor and Commercial showing a rise.

Paddy Power Betfair PPB The merged group has got off to a good start with revenue fior the 3 months to the end of March up by 16% and operating profit by 36%.  All 4 of its brands are trading well.

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