It's been a torrid few months for online dating provider Cupid (CUP:AIM) after a radio programme last month implied that the £118 million cap had fake member profiles on its portfolio of websites. Cupid said the allegations were 'without foundation'. Its results today show an impressive performance with a 31% rise in pre-tax profit and 33% higher dividend at 3p per share. Cupid plans to take its Uniform Dating brand into new geographical territories, most likely the US and Australia. But investors were troubled by other elements of the results, meaning that it didn't stage a recovery rally following significant losses in February.
After showing gains in early trading, Cupid slipped back 0.6% to 135.5p as investors digested news that it would spend £2 million on investments in brand building, 'social discovery' (a buzz word to describe matching people with similar interests) and customer service. This has triggered a 12% downgrade by analysts to their 2013 earnings forecasts. These investments are unlikely to result in near-term revenue generation, says the company. Yet stockbroker Numis reckons they will lead to a 'better quality business' in the long run.
Construction equipment rental provider Ashtead (AHT) has once again defied the market critics with a stellar set of quarterly numbers, taking its share price up a further 7.7% to 565p. As we explain in detail here, the shares have been driven by regular earnings upgrades.
Cash-rich Irish gambling expert Paddy Power (PAP) continues to deliver strong financial results, reaping the benefits of previous investment into the business. Full-year numbers show record pre-tax profit of €139.2 million and a 20% hike in the dividend for the year at 120c. It now has nearly twice as many active online customers as in 2010 and boasts €209 million net cash on its balance sheet. The shares advanced 2.7% to €65.83, despite some caution in the outlook statement. Chief executive officer Patrick Kennedy says that operating profits could be reduced by €10 million this year if exchange rates continue in their present state.
Recruitment bellwether Michael Page (MPI) advanced 4% to 455p despite reporting a 33.8% drop in pre-tax profit in 2012 to £57 million. Outsourcing specialist Serco (SRP) jumped 8.6% to 629p on its full-year results which showed a 7.3% rise in adjusted pre-tax profit to £278.1 million.
There was more good news from the banking sector as Standard Chartered (STAN) was up almost 4% to £18.51 after announcing its tenth successive record annual profit. After HSBC (HSBA) reported huge profits yesterday, Standard Chartered’s pre-tax profit was up 1% to $6.8 billion on the back of a 6% increase in lending and a 10% boost in deposits, giving it a loan-to-deposit ratio of 74.1%. This was achieved despite its $667 million fine for breaking sanctions with Iran, while management increased its dividend per share by 10.5% to 84c. Investec’s Ian Gordon described the outlook statement as reassuringly robust. ‘In 2013, we believe that delivery against the “usual” targets of double-digit revenue growth, flat jaws and double-digit EPS growth will be a breeze.’
Video-on-demand streaming specialist Perform (PER) pleased the market reporting sales in 2012 up 47% to £152 million versus £103 million in 2011, pushing its shares up 0.3% to 416.3p. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) advanced 103% to £37.5 million from £18.5 million in 2011.
US direct marketing play 4imprint (FOUR), up 3.9% to 400p, pleased with a bullish outlook statement accompanying 2012's finals. Chairman John Poulter reported that 'demand in the early weeks of the new year has been encouraging' and reiterated to Shares a strategic objective to double the business in the next five years.
Moneysupermarket.com (MONY) reported 2012 revenues 15% higher to £204.8 million, versus £178.5 million in 2011, yet the shares dipped 1.3% to 200.6p. The stand-out feature of the results was a 97% EBITDA cash conversion rate.
Aviation services-to-newspaper distributor John Menzies (MNZS) nudged up 3.6% to 775p on full-year results which showed a 3.5% rise in underlying pre-tax profit to £58.4 million. Outgoing finance director Paul Dollman says 2012 was a year of investment in 'structure and growth' with Menzies restructuring some cargo operations and making its first acquisition in the media distribution arm for many years. Dollman is leaving after 10 years with the business to pursue life as a non-executive director for a handful of firms. He is being replaced by Ricardo's (RCDO) finance director Paula Bell in June.
Inter-dealer broker Tullett Prebon (TLPR) revealed sales down 10% with underlying profits of £114.7 million, 16% off but better than some in the market had forecast. In recognition of the better-than-feared result the counter rose 3.4% to 268.7p. Profits were reported on an underlying basis due to restructuring costs of £14.8 million, versus £11.5 million in 2011. There was also a one-off goodwill impairment charge of £123 million and £11.6 million of costs relating to legal action.
East African oil explorer Ophir Energy (OPHR) gushed up 6.1% to 490p despite announcing it would lookto raise £553 million from shareholders to fund an ambitious drilling programme. The company said it expects to raise £91 million by placing but the bulk of the cash will come from a rights issue of two new shares for five existing shares. A subsequent announcement says it has placed stock at 460p, raising £91.3 million.
A possible deal with German utilities giant E.ON has spurred Wildhorse Energy (WHE:AIM), up 5.9% to 6.75p. This bodes well for Wildhorse's Mecsek Hills underground coal gasification project in Hungary, as we discuss in detail here.
Condor Gold (CNR:AIM) advanced 1.3% to 158.2p after publishing a scoping study on its La India project in Nicaragua. The mine will cost $180.5 million to build where it hopes to produce 152,000 ounces of gold every year for the first eight years. The plans assume the mine will run for 13 years although analysts reckon it will have a longer life given that it keeps finding more gold through exploration.
Aircraft parts supplier Meggitt (MGGT) saw its share price take off, up 3.7% at 475.9p, after full year numbers revealed a 12% increase in pre-tax profit to £362.8 million. Broker Liberum Capital says: 'The outlook remains confident despite US defence pressure – civil market outlook remains good, with further growth in aircraft deliveries – we suspect a possible peak in 2015/16.'
FTSE 250 engineering play Rotork (ROR) saw a modest increase in the share price, up 0.2% at £29.08, after announcing a 13% rise in full year adjusted profit to £131.6 million. In the last six months the group, which makes valves and other controls for the oil, gas and water industries, has advanced 31.7%.
Office provider Regus (RGU) jumped more than 8% to 139.80p after reporting a 72% rise in pre-tax profits to £85.1 million. Management propose a 10% increase in dividend to 3.2p after its earnings per share (EPS) improved 74% to 7.5p.