Premarket London: Centrica Says It's on Track; Countryside Roars Ahead

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© Reuters. © Reuters. — Here is a summary of regulatory news releases from the London Stock Exchange on Thursday, 21st November. Please refresh for updates.

  • Centrica (LON:), the owner of British Gas, said it’s on track to meet this year’s targets for net debt and cash flow after a “solid” performance by its key U.K. business in the four months through October.
  • Total accounts in the U.K. rose 136,000, with growth in services and home solutions more than offsetting a 107,000 reduction in energy supply accounts. “The rate of U.K. energy supply net losses was lower than in the first half of the year and significantly lower than in 2018, despite continued high levels of price competition and market switching,” it said.
  • In North America, accounts increased by 86,000 and CEO Ian Conn also noted that regional margins improved.
  • Centrica (LON:) also said it has trimmed this year’s capital expenditure budget by 100 million pounds ($129 million) to around 800 million, and boosted expected cost savings this year by 50 million pounds to 300 million.
  • Home builder Countryside Properties (LON:) raised its dividend by 51% to 16.3 pence a share after reporting a 14% rise in full-year net profit to 170.4 million pounds on the back of a 33% rise in completions.

    Retiring CEO Ian Sutcliffe said the new financial year had also started well, with net reservation rates for the first seven weeks ahead of the same period last year.

    “With new site openings in the first half, we expect delivery to be weighted to the second half,” Sutcliffe said. “Potential economic and political uncertainty aside, we remain confident of delivering further earnings growth in 2020.”

    The company said its forward order book had risen 30% year-on-year to stand at 1.17 billion pounds.

Metals group Johnson Matthey (LON:) said it’s on track to hit market expectations for profit in the year ending next March, after posting a 3% rise in underlying revenue to 2.12 billion pounds in the first six months.

However, underlying operating profit fell 5% to 265 million pounds and underlying earnings per share fell 12% to 95.8 pence. Net debt was higher than expected and cash flow slightly weaker than expected as surging prices for precious metals such as palladium saddled it with higher working capital requirements.

CEO Robert MacLeod said the group expects a stronger second half, free of one-off effects and is sticking by its medium-term target of “mid- to high single-digit growth” in annual earnings per share.

  • Water utility Severn Trent (LON:) said underlying pretax profit fell 4.3% to 286.3 million as a result of increase investment, partly offset by a 20 basis point drop in its borrowing costs to 3.7%.
  • The company raised its interim dividend to 40.03p per share from 37.35p a year earlier, even though underlying earnings per share fell 9.7% to 68.8p.
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