City toasts Mitchells & Butlers PLC third quarter update as sales growth froths higher

The glass was half-full for pubs group PLC () in the third quarter of its financial year.

Trading since the half-year point was passed has been strong, with like-for-like (LFL) year-on-year sales growth of 2.6% over the 10 weeks to 22 July.

Year-to-date, sales at the All Bar One owner were 3.1% higher than in 2016, while LFL sales were up 2.0%, with food sales up 1.4% and drink sales 2.7% higher.

“Sales performance since the half year has been encouraging, with strengthening like-for-likes helped by the sunny weather and continued outperformance to the market,” said M&B’s chief executive, Phil Urban.

The City was encouraged, too, sending shares 19.3% higher to 267.7p.

lower amid profitability concerns

Marechale Capital PLC () took a beating today after investors began to question as it posted another loss despite revenues soaring.

Total sales jumped 39% to £1.05mln, well ahead of the £0.75mln it generated last year, which resulted in a gross profit of £0.79mln (2016: £0.45mln).

However, the investment banking and corporate finance business said higher staff costs and administrative expenses also increased.

As a result, Marechale recorded a loss before tax of £78,000, not much better than last year’s £91,000 despite the top line surge. Shares slipped 13% to 1.3p.


1.45pm…Cellcast beams higher as it renegotiates supplier agreement

Shares in () shot up this afternoon as the Babestation owner took a significant chunk out of its annual cost base.

The UK broadcaster has been undertaking a “major review of costs” in recent months and said it had renegotiated a contract with a current supplier that should lead to a “substantial and material reduction” in its annual expenses.

The agreement with the provider, which supplies Cellcast with large bandwidth services,  is for an initial three-year term with a break clause inserted after one year.

“Infrastructure and associated costs of this nature are a significant part of our cost base,” said chairman Mike Neville.

“We are delighted that we have been able to re-negotiate the terms of this contract, and give ourselves increased flexibility to cope with what is currently a complex and difficult market place.”

Shares jumped by 42% to 5p.


10.30am…Torotrak investors bail after annus horribilis for the automotive engineering firm

A lot of companies have benefited from the shift-change in attitude towards electric vehicles recently, just look at the lithium miners.

The big carmakers have started to allocate more and more of their budgets towards electric and hybrid investments, which hasn’t been ideal for automotive engineering firm ().

The group is coming to the end of a two-year plan to try and maximise its value, but it conceded today that “the commercial progress that the board would like to have made has not been forthcoming”.

In fact it’s been a pretty torrid year. Torotrak has had to lay off more than half of its staff, cash at the end of the financial year (30 June) was lower than expected and the annual loss of £7.3mln was broadly the same as last year.

The future doesn’t look great either. Three more employees have been handed their notice of redundancy and are on their way out by the end of next month, while the closure of the Leyland plant is due to complete later this year.

Unsurprisingly, investors were quick to bail this morning, with the share price shedding 18% to 0.45p.

Keywords Studios heads higher on strong first half performance

It was a more upbeat start for (), which headed higher this morning after the company beat expectations with a strong first half performance.

The AIM-quoted firm, which provides services into the video games industry, saw revenues jump 50% to €63.7mln (H1 2016: €42.4mln) during the six months to 30 June, while adjusted pre-tax profits also surged by 60% to €9.6mln (H1 2016: €6mln) in the period.

 “We are delighted with our progress so far this year,” said chief executive Andrew Day.

“This has enabled us to deliver a first half performance ahead of our expectations, underpinning our confidence in the group at least meeting market consensus for the year as whole.”

Shares jumped 10.3% to 988.9p.

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