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Reports UK

UK stock market morning note (February 27, 2014)

February 27, 2014, Thursday, 08:46 GMT | 03:46 EST | 13:16 IST | 15:46 SGT
Contributed by SVS Securities

The FTSE 100 is called to open flat to slightly lower this morning with investors in cautious mood on reports of Russian military exercises close to Ukraine's border. Today's economic diary is confined to the US with the publication of durable goods orders, the latest weekly jobless claims and testimony from the Federal Chair, Janet Yellen. Commodity prices are generally lower and on the foreign exchanges, the major currencies are virtually unchanged as investors await the economic news due out and Russian developments.

Company Announcements

Whitbread Trading Statement reports that it is on track to deliver full year results towards the top end of current expectations. Total sales growth in Q4 was 14% with lfl growth of 6.8%, driven by Christmas and favourable weather comparatives in January led by Costa and Premier Inn. The quarter has taken year to date growth in total sales to 13.2% and lfl sales growth of 4%.

British American Tobacco Final Results see adjusted profit from operations up 7% on revenue ahead 4% both at constant rates of exchange at GBP6bn and GBP15.8bn respectively. The dividend is raised 6% to 142.4p and it has agreed a GBP1.5bn share buy-back programme for 2014. It added that difficult trading conditions persist in some parts of the world, notably southern Europe, but noted that these results demonstrate its strategy of delivering robust profit and dividend growth.  

WPP Preliminary Results see headline PBT up nearly 11% to GBP1.45bn on revenues ahead 6.2% at over GBP11bn. The dividend is raised 20% to 34.21p and it is targeting a dividend pay-out ratio of 45% in 2014. It is raising its share buy-back target to 2%-3% of share capital from 1% and has also increased its strategic growth targets for each of its faster growth markets and new media sectors to 40%-45% of revenues over the next 5 years from 35%-40%. It added that it had made a good start to 2014 with January lfl revenue up 5.7% and gross margin/net sales ahead 4.1%.

RSA Final Results see a pre-tax loss of GBP244m, no final dividend, a new strategic action plan and confirmation of a proposed rights issue to raise GBP775m.

Royal Bank of Scotland Final Results see a pre-tax loss of GBP8.2bn, including regulatory and redress provisions of GBP3.8bn and impairments and other losses of GBP4.8bn relating to the establishment of RBS Capital Resolution. Excluding the impact of the latter, RBS operating profit was down 15% at GBP2.5bn. It has also updated its business review and confirmed last night that it was to sell its remaining stake in Direct Line.