News Column

TOP NEWS: UK Mortgage Approvals Decline Unexpectedly In July

August 26, 2014



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

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COMPANIES

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Media buying giantWPP said it is likely to achieve its targeted dividend pay-out ratio of 45% in 2014, a year ahead of schedule, as it saw pretax profit rise in the half-year to the end of June. The company proposed an interim dividend of 11.62 pence, up from 10.56 pence in the previous year. WPP posted a pretax profit of GBP491.1 million, up from GBP427.1 million in the previous year, as revenue rose 2.7% to GBP5.47 billion from GBP5.33 billion as the strength of sterling continued to hamper results. Revenues rose 11% on a constant currency basis.

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Antofagasta reiterated its production guidance for the full-year as it reported a first-half fall in pretax profit and revenue as market conditions remained challenging and it was hit by the declining price of copper, despite production coming in ahead of expectations. In it first-half results for the six months to June 30, 2014 the miner said pretax profit fell 13% to USD850.7 million from USD981.0 million last year. Revenue declined 4.2% to USD2.66 billion from USD2.78 billion in the first-half of 2013, said the company, after copper prices fell by 2.2% as prices "trended downwards during the period, as well as lower gold sales and realised prices." Antofagasta increased its dividend for the half-year by 32% to USD11.7 cents per share from the USD8.9 cents per share paid the previous year.

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Petrofac posted a sharp drop in net profit on the back of decreased revenue in the first half, though the group reiterated its year is weighted to the second half and said its engineering, construction, operations and maintenance (ECOM) business posted record order intake in the period. The FTSE 100-listed oil services company said net profit for the six months to June 30 was USD136 million, sharply down from the USD243 million posted a year earlier. That came on the back of a fall in revenue in the period to USD2.5 billion from USD2.8 billion last year. The group said it remains on track to deliver net profit of USD580-600 million for the full year, in line with previous guidance.

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Bunzl raised its interim dividend by 10% after posting an uptick in profit for the first half of the year, boosted by organic growth and recent acquisitions. Bunzl said it traded against a background of "mixed macroeconomic conditions" in the first half of 2014, with continued challenging market conditions in some of its sectors, but said it improved profitability in all its business areas. "Significant adverse currency translation movements held back the reported growth rates at actual exchange rates by between 8% and 9%," the company said. Bunzl reported a pretax profit of GBP132.3 million for the six months to June 30, up 2.2% on a reported basis from GBP129.4 million in the first half of 2013.

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GlaxoSmithKline said ViiV Healthcare Ltd, its joint venture HIV company with Pfizer Inc and Shionogi Ltd, received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its Triumeq HIV-1 treatment late last Friday. The single-pill treatment combines integrase strand transfer inhibitor dolutegravir and nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors abacavir and lamivudine.

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Regus said a strong pound hit its reported profit in the first half of the year, taking the shine off strong revenue growth in the period on the back of network expansion and strong returns. The workplace provider declared an interim dividend of 1.25 pence, a 14% increase on last year, which it said reflects "strong underlying performance and prospects". Regus posted a flat pretax profit of GBP31.0 million for the six months to June 30, the same level as the GBP31.1 million reported in the first half of last year. Whilst flat on a reported basis, it said profit was up 23% at constant exchange rates, driven by strong revenue growth and a "tight grip on costs".

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Telecity Group said Chief Executive Officer Michael Tobin will step down from the role October 31, 2014, following a handover period. The carrier-neutral data centre provider said it will commence an immediate search for a successor, with Chairman John Hughes assuming executive responsibilities until a new CEO is appointed.

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Tesco-owned convenience store business, One Stop, is to rollout Apple Inc's beacon technology in its stores, allowing customers to use their smartphones to receive tailor-made discounts, according to the Financial Times on Sunday. One Stop, which has been a subsidiary of Tesco since 2003, will launch the in-store beacon system next week in its 740 stores.

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MARKETS

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UK shares have started the shortened week firmly as they look to catch up on the gains made on Wall Street and in Europe on Monday.

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FTSE 100: up 0.1% at 6,782.87

FTSE 250: up 0.2% at 15,912.57

AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.3% at 766.08

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GBP-USD: up at USD1.6580

EUR-USD: up at USD1.3202



GOLD: up at USD1,286.74 per ounce

OIL (Brent): up at USD102.77 a barrel



(changes since end of previous GMT day)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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UK mortgage approvals declined unexpectedly in July from a 3-month high, data from British Bankers' Association revealed Tuesday. The number of loans approved for house purchases fell to 42,792 from 43,180 in June. It was forecast to rise to 44,065 in July. Having declined during the early months of 2014, approval volumes turned up in June, in the aftermath of the implementation of the Mortgage Market Review, which might have slowed down processing of applications in the earlier part of the year, it said.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dissolved Parliament and set early elections for October 26, on the eve of his expected meeting Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "The early parliamentary elections are part of my peace plan," Poroshenko said in his announcement late Monday. The "key element" is political dialogue with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, he said. The dissolution of parliament fulfilled one of Poroshenko's campaign promises in the May presidential election. Surveys have shown 80% of Ukrainians in support of early elections. Poroshenko and Putin are expected to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine, during a summit of the Russia-led Customs Union on Tuesday in Belarus. It will be their second face-to-face meeting since the Ukraine crisis erupted in February.

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France was set to get a new government Tuesday, a day after President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls dissolved their five-month-old Socialist administration following an internal clash on economic policy. Valls stunned the country Monday by presenting the government's resignation to Hollande after the economy and education ministers publicly criticized France and Europe's economic policies, charging that they were choking growth. Valls took the decision in consultation with Hollande, who immediately reappointed him as premier and tasked him with forming a new government that supports the government's centre-left agenda. Rebellious Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg and his ally Education Minister Benoit Hamon, who represent the left wing of the ruling Socialist Party, said Monday that they would not be part of the new team.

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The Israeli air force ramped up its targeting of high-rise buildings in Gaza City, destroying a 13-storey building overnight into Tuesday. The Basha Tower was evacuated before the attack, which left several people injured, local reports said. The building, which had housed the offices of a dpa correspondent until being damaged last month, was reduced to rubble. Earlier, the Israeli air force fired rockets at a mixed residential and office complex with 100 apartments and 150 businesses in the northern part of the city, causing severe damage.

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Source: Alliance News


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