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Ian Pollard – Dixons Hit By Challenging Mobile Profitability

Dixons Carphone DC has found UK mobile profitability challenging during the half year to the 28th October to such an extent that it needs addressing which is really as good as admitting that they have not bothered to do so yet. Black Friday trading was at record levels in all geographies, without any explanation as to what a geography is .- at a guess it could mean “country”. Statutory profit before tax  fell from £111m. to £42m. and statutory basic earnings per share were down from 8.1p per share to 3.3p. The day was saved  by a strong performance in electricals with like for like revenue up by 7% creating growing profitability and market share. The interim dividend remain unchanged.

Serco Group SRP predicts strong profit growth for 2018 and 2019 after  strong order intake of over 3bn for the current year. Profit performance for the current year is expected to be around the top end of previous guidance, whilst net debt will be at the lower end.

Wood Group (John) plc WG updates that so far this year its core oil and gas markets have continued to pesent challenges which have been offset by growth elsewhere. The integration of Amec Foster Wheeler which was completed on the 9th October is progressing ahead of schedule, as are planned cost cuts. Customer reaction has been positive and momentum has been gained in contract awards.

Parity Group plc PTY Like for like operating profit for the year to the end of December is expected to be ahead of previous guidance and underlying operating profit is expected to show double digit growth. Net debt has been cut by more than two thirds  over the 18 Months to to the 30th June, down from £7.5m to £2.3m.


Safestyle UK plc SFE Updates that demand has weakened further since the interim results were announced in September and in the three months  to the 30th November sales volume fell by a further 6.8% and sales value by 0.3%. Fourth quarter sales will now be below their already reduced expectations. Margins have been impacted by increases increases in he cost of sales, competition and the disruption which is at present being caused by December’s severe weather. Underlying profit before tax for the full year will be below current market expectattions, down to at lest £15m

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Countryside Props. Slashes House Prices

Countryside Props CSP did what for a house builder, is the  unthinkable, it slashed its average selling prices with the result that for the year to 30th September, completions rose by 28% overall and the forward year end order book stood at a record level. The rise in completions was 17% in the partnership division and 31% in the private division. The private average selling price was reduced by a massive 23% to £515,000 and not surprisingly customer demand remains strong. The private average selling price in the partnerships division, however was increased by 12% to £343,000 with the strange explanation that this was due to strong price growth in outer London and regional cities. The logic of all this appears to be dubious to say the least because it indicates that we should, logically speaking, be expecting bad news from the private house builders whereas the opposite is more likely. (but see Telford Homes below)

Telford Homes TEF expects pre tax profits for the half year to the 30th September will be significantly lower than they will be in the second half of the current financial year and than they were,  last year. Shareholders must understand that this is all down to the timing of completions and the company’s answer to this is to base the interim dividend on what they expect the full years profits will be, rather than on the actual outcome of the first half. It is understood that there is no question of a refund being asked for if the boards expectations for the full year are wrong.

Dunelm Group DNLM Trading in the first quarter to the 30th September was boosted by favourable weather which helped to produce strong growth, as the company outperformed the homewares market. Revenue rose by 24.8% reduced to 9.3% on a like for like basis. % new stores were opened in the quarter and five more are still to come.

Page Group Plc PAGE Gross profit for the groups third quarter grew by 8.8% in constant currency terms but with the poor old UK the laggard, with a fall of 7.6% due to those old favourites, challenging market conditions and the impact of Brexit. Only one other country showed a decline and that was Australia, down 2%, whilst the mighty French grew strongly, up 21% and the US led the pack with a rise of 29%. Foreign exchange movements also gets a mention, having contributed 3% points to the profit growth.

Wood Grp (John) Plc WG. has been awarded a new five year multi million dollar contract by Total to provide onshore maintenance services at it Lindsay oil refinery. There is a right to extend the contract for a further 2 years. Woods CEO immediately goes for the jargon and says that the new contract will help the company to broaden its downstream footprint but thankfully makes no mention of pipelines.

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BHP – 2017 Dividends Increased by 177%

BHP Billiton BHP benefited in 2017 from a substantial reduction in exceptional losses which fell from $6.4b in 2016  to $842m. as the Samarco dam failure in Brazil weighed less heavily on the company. The year to the 30th June turned out to be a very strong financial year with free cash flow at $12.b., the second highest on record and net debt down by 37%. On an underlying basis, EBITDA rise by 64%, basic earnings per share by 455% and attributable profit multiplied from $1.2b to $6.7b. Having laid the foundations over the past five years to improve return on capital and grow shareholder value, the momentum will continue into 2018 with volume growth of 7% expected, as well as further productivity gains.

Accordingly shareholders receive their reward with dividends for the year increased by 177% to a total of 83 cents per share.

Wood Group (John) plc WG had a mix of both robust and weaker performances across its businesses in the 6 months to the 30th June. Total revenue declined by 11% but profit was down by 86% and basic earnings per share by 89.0%. The interim dividend is increased cautiously by 3%.

Empresario Group EMR produced a record first half performance with revenue rising by 50% at constant exchange rates and adjusted profit before tax up by 24% or 12% at constant exchange rates. The company has successfully integrated its two acquisitions into the business and see them both offering further opportunities for growth.

Sareum Holdings SAR expects that profit for the year to 30th June and cash at the bank will be ahead of market expectation.

Proactis Holdings plc PHD expects to see a 31% rise in revenue for the year to 31st July, with EBITDA up 43% and profit before tax rising from 3.1m to 5.3m


Quantum Pharma plc QP Revenue for the half year to the 31st July rose by 13% following a strong performance from Niche Pharmaceuticals. Adjusted EBITDA rose by 23% and statutory operating prfit by 74% whilst net debt halved to 11.9m.

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Corporate news review Tuesday 15th August 2017

Hargreaves Lansdown HL. reports net FY new business of £6.9bn, AuA up 28% to £79.2bn and active clients up 118k to 954k. PBT is up 21% to £265.8m, and HL raises its dividend by 20% to 29p per share.

John Menzies MNZS says it has enjoyed a positive first half, with underlying PBT up 36% to £24.7m and a proposed 11% increase in the interim dividend to 6p. Chairman Dr Dermot F. Smurfit said: “Overall, I am very pleased with the Group’s performance in the first half and we look to the future with confidence as demonstrated by the increased dividend payment.”

Mears Group MER reports interim results in line with management expectations, with revenue up 1% to £470.8m.

Plant Impact PIM publishes the first presentation on its R&D platform and pipeline. The full presentation can be found at www.plantimpact.com/investors.

Rockhopper Exploration RKH updates on the Abu Sennan drilling concession, onshore Egypt, in which the Company has a 22% working interest. Production from the six fields within the Abu Sennan concession remains stable, averaging 3,300 barrels of oil equivalent per day (“boepd”) gross during the first six months of 2017. The group also updates on the Al Jahraa-9 well.

WideCells WDC raises £750k gross through the issue of 5,357,143 ordinary shares at 14p per share via a private placing with new and existing shareholders and the Board of Directors. The funds raised will be used to execute on a range of additional opportunities the Group has identified since listing in July 2016, rapidly accelerate the roll out of its three stem cell services divisions, CellPlan, WideCells and WideAcademy, and further its penetration of the rapidly growing stem cell market.

Wood Group WG. / Amec Foster Wheeler AMFW – The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) today accepts in principle the remedy formally offered by Wood Group on 9 August to complete the recommended all-share offer for Amec Foster Wheeler. Robin Watson, CEO of Wood Group said “Today’s announcement is an important milestone and gives us further confidence in our ability to complete the transaction in quarter four this year.” Jon Lewis, CEO at Amec Foster Wheeler said “We welcome the announcement by the CMA. Our offer of a proposed remedy in May and the early commencement of the sale process to potential buyers of the upstream oil and gas business has ensured we have navigated this process ahead of schedule increasing the likelihood that the transaction with Wood Group will close in quarter four this year.”

Wood Group weak in the East

by Ian Pollard

Wood Group plc WG has faced continued challenges in its core oil and gas markets in the 6 months to 30th June, with weak activity in the East more than offsetting a robust performance in the West. The first half is down on that of 2016 and is weaker than hoped for but it is expected that the second half will be stronger and it is still intended to pursue what it describes as a progressive dividend policy.

Greene King GNK announces record results for the 52 week to 30th April, after revenue for the year rose by 6.9% to record levels. On an adjusted basis, profit before tax rose by 6.6% but basic earnings per share were down by 23.9%. The final dividend is to be raised by 3.6%. At the Pub company likwe for like sales rose by 1.5%. outperforming the market after a good Xmas, a stronger fourth quarter and Greene King locals doing well.

DS Smith SMDS is increasing its dividend by 19% after another year of good growth for the 12 months to 30th April with organic volume up by 3.2%. Profit before tax rose by 16%, 5 acquisitions were made during the year and progress has continued into the new year. Momentum is now providing confidence in further growth to come.

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Hothschild Enjoys Boom In Mining

Hochschild Mining HOC has returned to profit and produced an exceptionally strong set of first half results, especially for a company in the beleaguered mining industry. Last yea’rs first half loss of $43.4m was turned into a profit of $60.3m after silver production of 17m ozs exceeded expectations with a rise of 31% and gold production rose by 188%. Total revenue was up from $190m to $339m. leading to a rise of 195% in like for like profit and 156% in earnings per share. It describes its environment as being constructive and is paying an interim dividend of 1.38 cents which it regards as being appropriate at “this early stage of the cycle”. More goodies to come then ?

Wood Group WG Despite the challenging conditions in oil and gas and an unchanged outlook for 2016, with EBITA expected to be down by 20%, Wood Group is raising its interim dividend by 10.2%. This reflects the determination of the company to raise its 2016’s dividends by double digits even if the results look fairly disastrous.   Like for like revenue for the half year to 30th June fell by 18.7%, profit was down by 63% and basic earnings per share by 63.2% but at least the shareholders are being well looked after.

Menzies (John) MNZS claims a positive first half to the 30th June thanks to the collapse of sterling and a rise in aviation turnover of 7%, which between them enabled the company to increase its interim dividend by 8% to 5.4p. Profit before tax fell from £5.8m to £3m and reported earnings per share of 4.7p became a loss of 2.4p. Turnover was static. Shareholders will be pleased to note that the board is determined to address historic performance shortfalls.

Mears Group MER A fall of 5% in profit before tax has not stopped the company from raising its interim dividend by 6% for the half year to 30th June as a sign of confidence in the future. Net debt soared by some 350% from £4.2m to £14.1m. and he company plans to reduce revenue by getting out of  unsustainable contracts which raises the question as to why it got into them in the first place.


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Not Again – More Unspecified “Challenging Conditions”

More and more Boards and CEOs seem to be waking up to the fact that if they claim to be operating in “challenging conditions” it makes their performance and governance, good or bad, look even better than it really is. What they forget is that some of us, perhaps even some shareholders, would like to know what these challenges actually were but generally they remain a well kept secret. If they were so serious that they affected the company’s performance and results, surely shareholder have a right to have details as to exactly what the challenges were which their company management was too clueless to overcome.

Wood Group WG. still expects that full year 2016 EBITA will be about 20% down on 2015 but it still expects to increase dividends per share by 10% or more. It has found that the North Sea operating environment has been very challenging for both volume and pricing but the International business performance has been robust.

Stobart Group STOB intends to increase the level and frequency of  dividend payments as from October when a quarterly dividend will be paid. Stobart exp[ects that this will be at the rate of 3p per share on top of which share buybacks and special dividends will occur as circumstances permit.

Harvey Nash HVN has increased gross profit by 8% in the first four months of the current financial year despite challenging conditions. Significantly the UK was the worst performer with zero growth while mainland Europe from which we have just decided to divorce, came up with 11%, the USA with 24% and Asia Pacific with 5%.  Uncertain times lay ahead says the company. With the irresponsible and fairly clueless political leaders who claim to govern both the UK and the EU, that should come as no surprise.

Vianet VNET Despite economic uncertainty which the company finds unhelpful, trading in the first 2 months of the current financial year is noticeably ahead of last year.

AA plc AA has agreed to sell its Irish business for £156.6m

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