Credit agency Experian (EXPN) disappoints the market with a big acquisition and half-year results, sending the shares down 7.9% to £11.63. It is to buy healthcare data specialist Passport Health Communications for $850 million, funded by existing borrowing facilities. It says the deal makes Experian the 'clear leader' in the US healthcare payments industry. One reason behind the share price drop is that the acquisition limits the options for further returns of cash to shareholders next year, says Oriel Securities. There's also reduced full-year guidance, modified from growth of mid to high single digits to a similar range to its first-half period. Interim results show a 2% rise in pre-tax profit to $573 million. The big worry area for investors has been Experian's big exposure to Brazil where cracks are emerging in the economy. Today it admits consumer confidence is weak and credit is growing more slowly in Brazil, yet it says the business has performed well thanks to broadening its activities. We said to ditch the stock in July.
Bisto gravy-to-Hovis bread maker Premier Foods (PFD) rises 2.5% to 143.5p as it confirms press reports it is weighing up investment options for its bread business including a potential 'co-investment by a partner'. In last week's (31 Oct) third quarter update, Premier said sales were 1.5% behind in the restructured bread division, with demand sapped by hot July weather.
Pubs operator JD Wetherspoon (JDW) impresses with 3.7% like-for-like sales growth in its first quarter and accelerated expansion plans. The shares rise 0.6% to 716.5p accordingly. Investec analyst James Hollins says the investment plans are welcome but the extra spend means that 2014 earnings estimates must be reduced by 3%.
FTSE 250 distribution business DCC (DCC) advances 0.4% to £28.10 as it reports a 37.6% rise in half-year pre-tax profit to £42.5 million. DCC, which is a major supplier to retailer Argos, has increased the dividend by 10% and reiterates guidance that operating profit for the year to March 2014 will be 15% ahead of the previous 12-month period.
Hotelier Millennium & Copthorne (MLC) nudges ahead 0.9% to 586p after proposing to sell a shopping centre in Singapore. Also published are third quarter results which are a mixed bag. Operating profit falls 6.6% to £31.2 million but revenue per available room – the key benchmark for the hotels industry – rises 3.4%. The overall performance has been helped by reinstated room sales from recently refurbished hotels and land sales in New Zealand.
Aberdeen-based public transport operator FirstGroup (FGP) notches up 1.7% to 118.1p on a half-year report that sees the £1.4 billion cap post a 46% increase in underlying profits before tax to £28.3 million in the six months to 30 September. The group also saw net debt in the same period fall 30.5% to £1.4 billion while earnings per share were unchanged from the same period last year.
Persimmon (PSN) slips 0.3% to £12.11 despite an interim management statement that shows the housebuilder moving forward across all metrics thanks in large part to the government's Help to Buy programme.
Robust demand for compliance software sparks specialist Ideagen (IDEA:AIM) but it's news of a maiden dividend that really fires the shares, up close on 23% to 27.475p. The £33.7 million cap – a former Shares Play of the Week – flags that revenue and adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) 'increased significantly' in the first half to end October, having reported £2.58 million and £750,000 figures for the same period in 2012.
Goldplat (GDP:AIM) falls 3.1% to 7.88p after publishing full-year results. The problems surrounding the metals processing company's mining operations have already been well flagged but investors are no doubt disappointed at the significant drop in the dividend, down from 0.6p a year ago to a mere 0.12p.
Machine gun manufacturer Manroy (MAN:AIM) gains 7.2% to 52p as it announces a second contract with a 'European Government' worth £1.8 million. This award, which involves the provision of heavy machine gun spares, comes on top of a £1.4 million contract with the same customer announced in September (5 Sep).
Kazakh oil explorer Max Petroleum (MXP:AIM) ticks up 2.6% to 4p as it reveals successful appraisal drilling on its Sagiz West and Uytas fields. The positive results follow the previously unsuccessful wells on both fields which were announced last month (16 Oct).
Lancashire (LRE) falls 2.9% to 795p as it became the latest insurer to be hit by Europe’s weather. The company’s pre-tax profits for the three months to October plummets to $25.7 million from $78 million a year ago due to the hail storms and floods in the region. This has led to a massive rise in its combined ratio – its claims compared to its premiums – of 90.8% from 48.9% a year earlier.
Gene medicine specialist Ark Therapeutics (AKT) dives 18.4% to 0.3p as the company heads towards liquidation. It is yet to confirm a takeover for the business and plans to return its funds to shareholders in the first half of 2014 unless a deal can be agreed.