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Weak Sterling Helps Save The Day For First Group

First Group FGP claims a significant improvement in operating results for the year to 31st March despite a mixed trading environment and with the benefit of a large helping hand from favourable currency movements. Profit before tax increased by 34.4%, earnings per share by 24% and statutory operating profit by 15.1%. Revenue was up by 8.3% but without the collapse of sterling it would not have been up at all, in fact on a constant currency basis it was down by 0.5% which puts that “significant improvement” into perspective. First Bus and First Rail both faced challenging market conditions, with like for like First Bus revenue falling by 0.6%.

The company claims it is concentrating on the service improvements which its customers tells it they want, which appears to be virtually an admission that management hadn’t a clue what level of service it should be providing until its customers started trying to get the message through.

Johnson Matthey JMAT A stronger second half provided evidence of an improving performance which in turn has enabled the final dividend to be increased by 5%. Profit before tax for the year to the end of March rose by 19%, earnings per share by 21% and revenue by 12%. Revenue at constant exchange rates and on a like for like basis grew by 3% over the year but in the second half that figure doubled to 6%, helped by the company’s world leading science and technology. Growth in Europe was particularly strong. In the current year sales growth is expected to match the 6% of 2017’s second half and beyond 2018 expectations are for deliver of sustained sales growth and margin expansion.

Watkin Jones WJG is increasing its interim dividend by 10% after a strong half year which produced strong profit growth. Adjusted profit before tax and EBITDA each rose by 26.6% for the six months to the 31st March, despite an expected 8.4% fall in revenue.

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