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United Utilities UU must have decided to make its half year report as obscure and meaningless as possible. Thus it is full of PR19S, ODIs, RCV Gearing and the latest craze, System Thinking. What it wont do because presumably it would make the figures for the 6 months to the end of September too easy to understand, is tell you the percentages by which mundane things like revenue and profit in all its various guises have risen. That is a fairly easy task for even the most junior office boy in most head offices – but perhaps I should not run the risk of being regarded as sexist when of course I should have said “junior person”. So you can have your profits four ways – underlying, reported, underlying after tax and reported after tax but what you are definately not allowed to see are the figures on a statutory basis. The figure all show reasonable increases and the interim dividend is going up from 12.95p to13.24p per share. What that rise means in percentage terms is however a closely gaurded secret, known only to that junior person at head office who is the only member of senior management with the System Thinking skills able to work it out.
Thomas Cook Group TCG has woken up to the fact that it is a “good thing” to claim to have a customer focused strategy. Not before time, some may say, after the traumas of recent years. How serious they are about it remain to be seen but having discovered that it can lead to profitable growth, there may be a fair chance that they will give it a go.
Their table of figures is not all that easy to understand but I think I have got it after the third reading. Profit after tax for the year to the 30th Spetember has risen from 1 to 12 which is clearly shown as a difference of 11 which in the last colomn becomes a like for like rise of 7 on a constant currency basis. If you would like to know what the 7 means you are invited to proceed to page 12 – clearly this must be part of the new customer focused strategy. Underlying earnings per share is understandable with a rise from 8.1p to 9.3p and there is an explanation that like for like group revenue on a constant currency basis has risen by 9%. The recommended dividend is 0.6p per share but we are not enlightened as to whether that is a rise or a fall on last year. Perhaps I should go back to page 12 to find out. And before I forget, cutting complexity is one way in which they intend to produce further growth. Some chance.
Countryside Properties CSP shows how it should be done. Simple. On an adjusted basis earnings per share rose by 71% in the year to the end of September, revenue was up by 32%, completion by 28% and operating profit by 34%. It was an excellent and record year and perhaps one of the most significant statistics (which will be very unwelcome to the competition) is that they reduced the average selling price by 8% which most housebuilders would regard as a criminal offence.
Finsbury Foods FIF announces that the UK retail food market hass moved from a deflatioary to an inflationary environment and thus helped to take the load off managements shoulders which is now finding it easier to run a bakery profitably. UK sales have risen by 5% whilst European sales are down by 3% despite all those fancy baguettes, brioches and black unsliced.
United Utilities UU complains that its customers and the area in which they live suffer from high levels of income deprivation ie “a damaging lack of basic material benefits.” I wonder what its customers think to that slur. Shareholders need not fear however, as the company has “innovative facilities for enhanced engagement with its customers” – i.e bad debts are being kept under control.
Gross revenue this year will be slightly lower than last year but it still expects record operating profits. These however will be impacted by reforms and restructuring costs. Now a well managed company can not allow problems like that, amounting to some £16m, to affect its results, so it has decided to ignore them and exclude them from its underlying profit calculations at the end of the year. Those of us who are not accountants, may view that with a certain incredulity
Thomas Cook TCG is closing its winter booking season at similar levels to last year but with average selling prices down 1%. Summer bookings are so far up 10% on last year, led by Greece with a huge surge of 40% and signs of a return taking place to Turkey and Egypt. In the airline sector competition to the Spanish islands is putting downward pressure on prices.
Churchill China CHH is increasing its final dividend by 16% after a strong 2016 performance. Revenue for the year to 31st January rose by 9%, leading to rises of 29% and 30% in basic earnings per share and profit before tax.
Moss Bros MOSB had a successful 2016 with profit before tax for the year to 31st January rising by 20.3% and basic earnings per share by 17%. The final dividend is being increased to 3.98p per share making a total rise of 6.1% for the year. Retail like for like sales in the first seven weeks of the new year are up by 4.3% but like for like hire has collapsed by 14.3% due to an in store offer.
Card Factory CARD boasts of another record year with operating profit down by 3.7% and basic earnings per share and profit before tax both down by 1.1%. The final dividend for the year to 31st January is to be increased by 5% making a total increase for the year of 7.1%.