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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: SSE Impacted By Triple Weather Whammy

SSE plc SSE The first quarter was impacted by weather conditions with hydro output higher than last year due to higher snow melt but for both years output was below expected levels, with this year, some 20% lower than expected. Output from onshore and offshore wind farms has been around 15% below expectations due to poorer than average wind conditions. Finally temperatures in the UK for the three months to the 30th June were 1.5 degrees centigrade warmer than thirty-year average,  leading to a fall of about 10% in average domestic gas demand. Dry, still and warm weather, has also been accompanied by persistently high gas prices. Thus energy costs have risen,  electricity output from renewable sources has fallen at the same time as demand. All of these factors have negatively impacted adjusted operating profit for the quarter by some 80m which will potentially have an impact on the full year results.

Unilever plc ULVR claims a solid all round performance in challenging market conditions for its first half with one of the highlights being a 5% drop in turnover including an adverse currency impact of 8.9%. More and more companies failing to meet expextations, seek refuge in challenging market conditions, without ever explaining what exactly the challenges were and why management was incapable of meeting them. SSE appears to be no exception treating it as one of the facts of business life for which they need not offer a meaningful explanation.

Sports Direct Intl SPD will no doubt please shareholders with the news that t has am elevation strategy which is continuing to exceed expectations. Preliminary results for the year to the 29th April show that on a reported basis, profit before tax fell by 72.5% and earnings per share by  88.3%. On an underlying basis the figures showed rises of 34.5% and 74.6%, respectively.

Babcock International Group BAB updates that it has delivered strong growth in its aviation and nuclear sectors but defence revenues have been impacted, albeit perhaps only on a temporary basis, by another government restructuring in the creation of a Submarine Delivery Agency whose main purpose in life, apart from the creation  of more jobs for the boys, appears to be the creation of slowdowns and delays in activity levels.  Perhaps another level of bureaucracy could be added to get levels of activity back to where they were before the new agency was created.

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Ian Pollard – Weir Group #WEIR, 50% rise in oil, gas & shale revenues

Weir Group plc WEIR performed strongly in its main markets and first quarter orders grew by 22%, with minerals up by 13%. Oil and gas led the way with a 50% rise after strong drilling and completion activity in North American onshore. Further success was encountered as it became the preferred provider to major shale pressure pumpers. Weir has also announced the acquisition of ESCO which has a  world-class team and will add another leading global brand.to its porfolio. It also intends to start the process of selling Flow Control with the aim of reallocating capital to build further on its core platforms.

Unilever ULVR made a good start to he year with first quarter sales  growth of 3.4% and emerging markets doing even better with 5.1%. The quarterly dividend is to be increased by 8% after what the company describes as a good volume driven performance across all three divisions. Markets in Europe remained challenging as a resut of weak consummer demand, prie deflation and a challenging retail environment, especially in France. A triple whammy if ever there was one.

Rentokil Initial RTO has started the year well with ongoing revenue up by 15.7% at constant exchange rates. although on an organic basis revenue growth of 3.2% was down on last years 3.7%. Another year of successful growth is expected for 2018 despite unseasonably cold weather in March having delayed the onset of the US pest season.

Telecom Plus TEP produced record levels of revenue, profit and dividends during the year to the end of March. The final dividend is to increased by 4.2% from 48p. per share to 50p.The success was achieved despite  a challenging environment created by record industry levels of domestic customers switching suppliers which TEP managed to keep below the industry average with its own customers. Profit before tax for 2019 is expected to be in the region of 55 to 60m.

Essentra plc ESNT proclains that it is continuing to “drive its stability agenda”. That must mean something when translated into Engish and I will try and discover exactly what before the end of the morning. It is possible that it may have something to do with its expectations of a return to like-for-like revenue growth and margin expansion in 2018.

Aveva Group AVV enjoyed strong trading for the year to the end of March. After revenue growth of 5.9% in the first half, .growth accelerated in the second half leading to a comfortable double digit rate for the year as a whole.

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Unilever Ice Cream Sales Melt In Europe

Unilever plc ULVR Reports that emerging markets drove third quarter sales growth with underlying sales up by 2.6% and, over nine months, by 2.8%. Total third quarter turnover however was down by 1.6% after a 5.1 % currency impact. Developed markets were a problem and remained challenging, with turnover, led by of all things, ice cream in Europe, down by 2.3%. Emerging markets saved the day with volume up by 1.8% and turnover by 6.3%.

Rentokil Initial RTO obtained growth in its third quarter, from acquisitions which produced a total rise in company revenue of 10.10% but on an organic basis growth at 3%, was much lower. Strong performances came from Asa Pacific, Latin America and the target market of North America. Five further aquisitions were made in quarter 3 and prospects for the rest of the year remain good.

Stobart Group STOB is to increase its interim dividend by 50% for the half year to 31st August from last years  3p to 4.5p per share this year. Profit before tax came in at £111.6m compared to last years £10.8m and underlying EBITDA rose from £20.2m last year to £131.8m this year but after taking into account £123.9m of profit from the partial sale of its investment in Eddie Stobart Logistics, which appears to mean that excluding that one off bonus real EBITDA fell somewhat.

Travis Perkins TPK enjoyed continued strong third quarter growth across all its contract businesses and a significant improvement in sales in Plumbing & Heating. Group sales rose by 3.5% for the quarter rising to 4.1% on a like for like basis.

Tristel plc TSTL Sales and profitability in the year to the 30th June exceeded both market expectations and the company’s own internal plan,enabling the standard full year dividend to be increased by by 21%. Turnover for the year rose by 19% which included a 43% rise in oversea sale and earnings per share increased from 5.01p. per share to 8.06p

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Debenhams offers a fun social time as profits slide

Debenhams DEB Where shall we take the kids today, darling ? What about Debenhams for a fun social time? Daddy. daddy yes, pleeease ! There used to be only one reason to go to Debenhams and management appears to have completely forgotten what that was.  It was to shop and buy things, you dunderheads. If Debenhams customers are going for and having, a fun social time they are not buying and Debenhams is not selling. No wonder UK EBITDA is down by 6% No wonder its online performance has been strong and it is trying to make progress in non clothing categories and no wonder that for the half year to the 14th March group profit before tax fell by 6.4%.

Unilever plc ULVR is raising its quarterly dividend by 12% as first quarter turnover rose by 6.1% after a positive currency impact of 2.4%. Underlying sales growth for 2017 is now expected to rise by between 3% and 5%. Market conditions remained challenging with negative volume growth in Europe and North America. India did show some recovery from the effects of removal of currency notes but Brazil was adversely impacted by its economic crisis.

MAN Group EMG The first quarter of 2017 was a strong one for Man with funds under management rising by 10%, with growth in each of its investment engines. MAN now looks forward to the” alpha” opportunities being created by the global environment – Nothing like jargon when you are stuck for words – alpha opportunities indeed !

Paragon Entertainment Ltd PEL claims to have succeeded in doing what it set out to do in 2016, with revenue up by 70% to £14.4m and gross profit up by 91% to £3.76m. Projects completed included Coronation street, Fountains Abbey and Rolling Stones. With new projects in the pipeline, the company claims it is excited about its future

Amerisur Resources AMER Platanillo – 22 well has now been tested at 613 barrels of oil per day which is materially ahead of pre test expectations of between 300 and 400 bopd. The well has been placed on commercial production.

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film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002 trailer

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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Unilever (ULVR) – Fleet of Foot On All Fronts

Todays results from Unilever, a long established giant of a company, show not a sign of  corporate sclerosis, despite its advancing years. In fact all the signs are that it remains young at heart and fleet of foot.

It also claims and here it must be unique for any company over at least the last 5 or 6 years, that it has actually benefited from currency movements and done so to the tune of a 5.9%.uplift to turnover. No whingeing from the boardroom about how the company has been “impacted” by adverse currency movements. In fact Unilever makes it clear in almost every sentence that it is the company and its management which is making the impact and that it is doing so despite challenging trading conditions.

2015 saw turnover rise by 10% with underlying sales growth of 4.1%, including volume growth of 2% and price increases of 1.9%.  emerging markets led the way on the growth front with turnover up by 7.1%, volume by 2.7% and prices by 4.3%.

Core operating profit rose by 12% and core earnings per share by 14%.  Even excluding  the benefits of currency movements, earnings per share were still up by 11%.

Unilever’s CEO describes the company as being resilient, having grown ahead of its markets and overcome high currency and commodity volatility, as well as slower global growth and it is prepared for 2016 to be an even worse year.

From food to personal care and from home care to ice cream, 2015 was a year which saw good growth on all fronts.

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