News Column

UK MIDDAY BRIEFING: Wolseley's US Growth Offsets Currency Hit

June 3, 2014

LONDON (Alliance News) - Wolseley is the biggest gainer on the FTSE 100 Tuesday after the plumbing and heating products distributor reported higher trading profit for its fiscal third quarter, driven by strong growth in the US and Nordic countries.

However, adverse currency movements knocked GBP200 million off its revenue and GBP12 million off its profit.

The company said it sacrificed revenue growth in the UK to protect gross margin. It said the new residential build market, which represents about 5% of its revenue, is still growing strongly, while the repair, maintenance and improvements market, which represents about 60% of its revenue, is only seeing modest growth. The industrials market remains weak, it said.

AstraZeneca's investigational drug AZD0914 for the treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhoea had been granted 'fast track' status by the US Food and Drug Administration, as the disease is becoming "increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and poses a serious global public health threat," AstraZeneca said.

This means that the drug will be eligible for priority review from the FDA, and a five-year extension on its market exclusivity if it is approved.

Stocks are broadly lower across the UK and Europe Tuesday, amid a busy morning of economic data that looks like to pile pressure on European Central Bank President Mario Draghi to take action at a highly anticipated policy meeting on Thursday. Ahead of the US open, futures trading indicates that Wall Street will follow Europe lower, with the DJIA and the S&P 500 both set to open about 0.2% lower.


FTSE 100: down 0.6% at 6,823.59

FTSE 250: down 0.7% at 15,979.19

AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.3% at 810.20

GBP-USD: flat at 1.6747

EUR-USD: up at 1.3619

GOLD: up at USD1,245.89 an ounce

OIL (Brent): down at USD108.52 a barrel


Top UK Corporate News


The UK's biggest four supermarket chains continue to face pressure from the heavy supermarket discounters Aldi and Lidl, as the broader market experienced its a slowest growth for more than 11 years due to a continuing price war. According to the latest grocery share figures from Kantar Worldpanel, out of the UK's four biggest supermarket chains, Tesco, J Sainsbury and Wm Morrison Supermarkets all reported market share declines in the 12 weeks ending May 25, while Wal-Mart Stores-owned Asda was the only large grocer to grow its share year-on-year during the period.


Estate agencyFoxtons Group saw its shares slide after it said Chief Executive Michael Brown had decided to step down on July 1 after 7 years at the helm, for personal reasons. In a statement, the company said Chief Operating Officer Nic Budden will take over as CEO, while Brown has agreed to stay on the company's board as a non-executive director. Stefano Curzio will step down as a non-executive director October 1. "Nic has worked side by side with Michael for many years and has been a core architect of Foxtons' success. He is the natural successor to Michael and the unanimous choice of the board," Chairman Garry Watts said in a statement.


Pennon Group raised its dividend after reporting higher full-year profit, with profit growth at its South West Water unit more than offsetting a decline at its waste recycling and management business Viridor. The company reported a pretax profit of GBP158.7 million in the year to end-March, up from just GBP13.6 million a year earlier. It said it will pay a final dividend for the year of 20.92 pence, up 6.2% on the previous year. That will bring the total dividend to 30.31 pence, a 6.5% increase. The growth was driven by South West Water division, the licensed water and sewerage service provider for Devon, Cornwall and parts of Dorset and Somerset.


DCC has acquired Williams Medical Holdings, which supplies medical equipment and pharmaceuticals to general practitioners and primary care organisations in the UK, in a move to strengthen its healthcare division. The FTSE 250 support services business operating in healthcare, as well as sectors including energy and technology, said it has paid cash for the acquisition based on a GBP45.0 million enterprise value, a measure of a company's value equivalent to market capitalisation plus debt, minority interest and preferred shares, less its cash. However, no specific financial details of the deal were provided.




Orogen Gold is trading higher after the company said geophysical surveys carried out on its Mutsk gold project in Armenia have extended a target zone and show strongest anomalies in its undrilled northern sector on the site.Bowleven is up after it said a formal resolution confirming the Cameroon government's support for its Etinde Exploitation Authorisation application has been signed. At the other end of the market, Edenville Energy is trading lower after the company said its pretax loss widened significantly in 2013 as it was hit by a GBP1.7 million impairment charge on the write-off of exploration expenditure. Shares inLondon Mining are also down; the company said late on Monday that it has evacuated "non-essential" staff from its operations in Sierra Leone in response to a deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus. It said production at its Marampa mine had not been affected and it is working with local and international agencies to monitor the dangerous situation in west Africa.


Top Economics And General


Eurozone inflation slowed more than expected in May, raising concerns about deflationary pressures. Inflation fell to 0.5% in May from 0.7% in April, flash estimates published by Eurostat showed. The rate was forecast to ease marginally to 0.6%. Inflation held below the European Central Bank's target of 'below, but close to 2%' for the sixteenth consecutive month. The ECB is expected to move this week to head off the threat posed to the eurozone by deflation and stagnation.


Euro area unemployment rate unexpected dropped in April, but remained at a high level, figures from Eurostat showed. The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 11.7% from 11.8% in March. Economists had expected the rate to hold steady at 11.8% for the fourth straight month.


UK house prices rose more-than-expected in May though at a slower rate than in April, survey figures from the Nationwide Building Society showed. House prices climbed 0.7% month-on-month in May, rising for the thirteenth consecutive month, following a 1.2% increase in April. This slightly exceeded forecasts of a 0.6% rise. The average price of a house in the UK was GBP 186,512 during May versus GBP 183,577 in the previous month. On a year-over-year basis, house prices rose at a faster rate of 11.1% in May compared with a 10.9% increase in April. It was the fastest rate of increase since prices started rising in March 2013. Economists had forecast a 10.9% increase.


The UK construction sector expanded sharply in May, but the momentum continued to ease from the post-crisis highs seen earlier in the year. The seasonally adjusted Markit/ Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply Construction Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 60.0 in May from 60.8 in April.The headline index was above the 50.0 no-change level for the thirteenth successive month, but the latest reading signaled the slowest pace of growth since October 2013.


China's manufacturing sector contracted marginally in May, as output shrank slightly, while new orders stabilized after a three-month sequence of declines. The HSBC manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 49.4 in May from 48.1 in April but down slightly from the earlier flash estimate of 49.7, final survey data from Markit Economics showed Tuesday.


India's central bank decided to leave its key interest rates unchanged, but reduced the statutory liquidity ratio of banks. The repo rate, the rate at which the Reserve Bank of India lends to banks, was maintained at 8.00%.


US President Barack Obama arrived in Poland for an official visit on amid fresh violence in neighbouring Ukraine. Obama was greeted at the airport by President Bronislaw Komorowski, with whom he is to hold bilateral talks. The US president will also hold separate talks with Prime Minister Donald Tusk later in the day. The meetings are expected to be dominated by the crisis in Ukraine. The country's president elect, Petro Poroshenko, is due to meet Obama in Warsaw on Wednesday. In eastern Ukraine, meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists said that airstrikes by government forces had killed at least one civilian.


The heads of the Russian energy company Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogas reach a tentative deal in a row over gas supplies, EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger says, adding that a final round of negotiations would take place this week or next. "The two chief executives have a shared proposal for a bulk deal: for the resolution of unpaid invoices through a redemption plan and for an acceptable price for both sides to be charged in future," Oettinger says after three hours of talks in Brussels. The deal, reached in bilateral talks between the Russian and Ukrainian chief executives, would now be evaluated on a legal, financial and economic basis and in talks with both countries' governments, Oettinger says.


Egypt'sPresidential Election Commission is expected to officially name former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi as the country's next president. Unofficial results from last week's presidential poll showed al-Sissi gaining more than 96% of the vote, with spoiled ballots outnumbering those cast for leftist challenger Hamdeen Sabahy. Under the Egyptian constitution, al-Sissi will be deemed to be president as soon as the results are officially announced. He would only start performing his functions once he takes the oath of office. No date has yet been set for that ceremony.


Syrians headed for the polls, with Bashar al-Assad expected to easily win a third seven-year term as president, as voting was only taking place in the country's government-held areas. Polling was taking place in the midst of a civil war that has killed more than 162,000 people so far. The election has been denounced as a "farce" by the opposition and its Western supporters. The poll is the first to see al-Assad face rival candidates. But the two low-profile figures running against him are not expected to make any impact. There was no voting taking place in rebel-held areas, which include most of northern and eastern Syria. Turnout was high, state television reported, with Bashar al-Assad expected to easily win a third seven-year term even as opposition groups decried the process.


Afternoon Watchlist (all times British Summer Time)


14:45 US ISM New York index

15:00 US Factory Orders

15:00 US IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism


Wednesday's Key UK Corporate Events


Workspace Group Full Year Results

Findel Full Year Results

Synergy Health Full Year Results

Alternative Networks Full Year Results

RPC Group Full Year Results

Tesco Interim Management Statement

Advanced Computer Software Group Full Year Results


Wednesday's Key Economic Events (all times British Summer Time)


All Day G7 Meeting

00:01 UK BRC Shop Price Index

00:01 UK RICS Housing Price Balance

02:35 Japan Markit Services PMI

06:00 Russia Purchasing Manager Index Services

08:00 UK Halifax House Prices

08:55 Germany Markit Services PMI

09:00 EU Markit Services PMI

09:00 EU Markit PMI Composite

09:30 UK Markit Services PMI

10:00 EU Gross Domestic Product

10:00 EU Producer Price Index

12:00 US MBA Mortgage Applications

13:15 US ADP Employment Change

13:30 US Nonfarm Productivity

13:30 US Unit Labor Costs

13:30 US Trade Balance

14:45 US Markit Services PMI

15:00 US ISM Non-Manufacturing PMI

15:30 US EIA Crude Oil Stocks change

19:00 US Fed's Beige Book


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Source: Alliance News

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