News Column

TOP NEWS: Prudential Profit Up, Raises Dividend

August 12, 2014

Arvind Bhunjun



LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Tuesday.

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COMPANIES

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Prudential upped its interim dividend by 15% to 11.19 pence per share, as it reported a 7% increase in operating profit based on longer-term investment returns before tax, though results were hit by sterling strength. In a statement, the financial services group said it made a GBP1.52 billion operating profit in the six months ended June 30, compared with GBP1.42 billion in the corresponding period last year. This was driven by Prudential's long-term business, such as life insurance, which showed an 18% increase to GBP686.0 million in the US, where Prudential targets the baby boomer generation through Jackson National Life Insurance Co. Prudential said the increase in the US was primarily driven by increased fee income from higher separate account assets. UK operating profit was up 10%, while in Asia it rose 2%, or 19% at constant rates.

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Ladbrokes posted a sharp fall in profit in the first half of its financial year, despite an uptick in revenue and a welcome boost from the football World Cup, as the business failed to recover from big pay-outs earlier in the year. The bookmaker said revenue in the six months to June 30 was up 2.6% to GBP577.8 million, from GBP563.0 million a year earlier, bolstered by the recent FIFA World Cup and strong mobile growth. Including telephone betting from the big-money gamblers that Ladbrokes calls "high rollers", revenue was up 4% to GBP589.3 million. However, it was still not enough to make up losses from big pay-outs earlier in the year, when an unusually high number of favourites won their football matches, and Ladbroke's pretax profit in the period almost halved to GBP27.7 million, down from GBP55.1 million a year earlier.

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Al Noor Hospitals Group posted a big jump in pretax profit on the back of a rise in revenue, boosted by higher outpatient volumes and a rise in revenue-generating doctors in the period, and said it would pay an interim dividend. The company, which operates medical surgical facilities in the United Arab Emirates, said pretax profit in the six months to June 30 rose 84% to USD45.6 million from USD24.8 million a year earlier. That came on the back of a 25% rise in revenue in the period to USD224.8 million from USD179.5 million last year. The jump in profit prompted the company to say it will pay an interim dividend of 3.7 pence per share.

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Serco Group swung to a first-half loss as it continued to suffer from reputational damage in the wake of its recent government contract woes, but new Chief Executive Rupert Soames has hired former Aggreko colleague Angus Cockburn as the company's chief financial officer. Cockburn, Aggreko's long-time CFO under Soames, had become interim CEO of the temporary power supplier when Soames moved to Serco. However, Cockburn had also told Aggreko he didn't want to become full-time CEO and was ready to seek new challenges. He will join Serco from the end of October.

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SIG reported a fall in first half pretax profit as it was hit by a number of one-off items such as restructuring costs, goodwill impairment charges, and losses on the sales of its German roofing operations and its Miller Pattison home energy-efficiency business. In a statement, the building products distributor said it made a GBP11.8 million pretax profit in the six months ended June 30, compared with GBP13.1 million a year earlier. Revenue increased by GBP31.1 million to GBP1.31 billion, while operating expenses increased by GBP14.2 million to GBP328.2 million. On an underlying basis, which excludes other items, SIG reported a GBP41.5 million pretax profit, up from GBP33.6 million. It increased its interim dividend by 23% to 1.42 pence from 1.15p.

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Online takeaway food delivery service Just Eat reported strong profit and revenue growth in the first half of its financial year, driven by orders from mobile devices following the launch of its iPad app in the UK. Just Eat, which floated on the London Stock Exchange earlier this year, reported pretax profit of GBP8.6 million for the six months to June 30, up from GBP3.1 million a year earlier, as revenue rose 58% to GBP69.8 million, up from GBP44.1 million in the first-half of 2013.

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BAE Systems has won a GBP348 million contract from the British government to build three offshore patrol vessels, formalising a deal initially announced last year, Reuters reported. The vessels will be built at BAE's Clyde shipyards in Scotland, safeguarding around 800 jobs, and will be used in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations, the Ministry of Defence said.

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GlaxoSmithKline is facing fresh allegations that it bribed doctors and officials in Syria to boost sales of its medicines, in the wake of recent accusations about corruption in its non-prescription business in the country, Reuters reported. Glaxo said on Monday it would investigate the new corruption claims, involving its own staff and local distributors, according to Reuters. It also said it has suspended relations with its Syrian distributors pending the results of the probe. The new accusations follow after a series of similar bribery claims made against the company in China, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Poland.

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MARKETS

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UK markets are trading marginally higher after recovering from an early fall, and early indications suggest that Wall Street will start higher.

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FTSE 100: up 0.1% at 6641.88

FTSE 250: up 0.3% at 15511.18

AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.3% at 755.3

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The euro fell to its lowest level since Friday against the dollar, as the ZEW economic confidence index in Germany posted to its lowest score since December 2012.

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GBP-USD: down at USD1.6773

EUR-USD: down at USD1.3342



GOLD: up at USD1310.08 per ounce

OIL (Brent): down at USD103.84 a barrel



(changes since end of previous GMT day)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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Like-for-like sales in the UK were down 0.3% on year in July, the British Retail Consortium said. That was well shy of forecasts for an increase of 0.9% following the 0.8% contraction in June. Non-food sales were up 14.9% on year, and 2.4% over the last three months. Food sales dropped 3.5% over the previous three months.

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Germany's economic confidence weakened notably to the lowest since December 2012, survey results from the Mannheim-based Centre for European Economic Research/ZEW showed. The indicator of economic sentiment fell by 18.5 points to 8.6 in August, due to the ongoing geopolitical tensions. This was the lowest score since December 2012, when the reading was 6.9. The expected score for August was 17. At the same time, assessment of current economic situation declined in August, with the corresponding index falling to 44.3 from 61.8 in July. The reading was well below the expected level of 54.

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The ZEW indicator of economic sentiment for the Eurozone declined significantly in August. The indicator dropped by 24.4 points to 23.7 points. Likewise, the current economic situation index fell 2.3 points to minus 33.8 points.

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Russia sent almost 300 lorries to deliver aid to civilians trapped in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels have been fighting, news reports said. The 280 vehicles with wheat, sugar, baby food and medicines left early morning from a logistics hub outside Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported. Russian authorities said that the convoy would pass through customs in the south Russian region of Rostov, which borders Ukraine. However, former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, who represents Ukraine in an international contact group with rebel leaders, said that the convoy would cross the border further north into Ukraine's Kharkiv region, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported.

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US President Barack Obama said Monday the naming of a new prime minister in Baghdad is a promising step forward in the effort to form a unifying Iraqi government. At the same time Obama ignored incumbent Nuri al-Maliki, the long-time Iraqi leader who for years enjoyed support from Washington. Obama said he called to congratulate Shiite politician Haidar al-Abadi after he was named prime minister-designate. He urged al-Abadi to name a new cabinet "that is inclusive of all Iraqis" as quickly as possible. Al-Maliki rejected the appointment of al-Abadi as unconstitutional. In a televised speech he said the decision would "have no effects" and vowed to continue with his own nomination. He accused the US of trying to overthrow him.

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Negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials to reach a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement were set to resume Tuesday in Cairo, as a 72-hour truce was holding for a second day in Gaza. The two sides held indirect talks for nearly ten hours on Monday. The Israeli team was set to return to Cairo later Tuesday, after having briefed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A senior Israeli government official denied reports that headway had been made at the Egyptian-brokered talks, telling Israel Radio and Channel 2 television that the gaps were wide and "no progress" had been made. Public radio reported that Israel has offered concessions that include: extending fishing zones in the waters off Gaza; narrowing a no-go security zone along the border; and allowing some 170 Palestinians a day to pass into Israeli territory through the Erez crossing for travel to the West Bank or Jordan.

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Source: Alliance News


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