Markets & Finance

L'Oreal Rises on Solid Results


Britain

Oil group Shell Transport was down £0.07 to £5.42, after the company announced that it has reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought against it by shareholders regarding the overstatement of oil and gas reserves. If the settlement is finally approved by the court, the company will pay $90 million to eligible participants and up to $1 million expenses and costs.

Hedge fund firm Man Group was down £0.42 to £15.29 after reporting that its funds under management came in at $43.5 billion today, compared with $43 billion at the end of March. The company said sales in the three months to June 30 were $1.6 billion, with redemptions totalling $1.2 billion. Citigroup had forecast that total funds under management would rise 2% to $43.7 billion.

Luxury retailer Burberry was up £0.04 to £4.06, ahead of its first-quarter sales report tomorrow. Goldman Sachs said that it expects group sales of £107 million, up 3.3%, and maintained its underperform rating. JP Morgan expects underlying sales growth of 6% to £109 million, given weak trading guidance. The broker noted that slight negative like-for-like expectations are due to the muted response management has had to the spring/summer collection at retail level in some markets (U.S. and UK in particular).

Virgin Mobile was up £0.07 to £2.62 after ABN Amro initiated coverage with a buy rating and a target price of £3.00, saying that the mobile phone service provider's story is still misunderstood and its stock is undervalued.

Lender Provident Financial was down £0.48 to £6.88 after Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein lowered its forecasts for the group to pre-tax profit of £199.1 million, representing a 7.9% fall, and earnings per share of 55.4 pence, a 7% drop. The company said that British home credit continues to produce a solid performance. Customer numbers at the end of May 2005 were 4% lower year over year, but credit issued for the 5 months to May 31 rose 5% year over year, as a result of selective increases in loan size to lower-risk, established customers, according to the company.

France

Telecom equipment maker Alcatel was up €0.70 to €9.90 after the company said that preliminary figures show second-quarter revenues up a higher-than-expected 8% to €3.1 billion. Operating margin amounted to slightly above 8% of revenues. The company cited strong momentum in IP routing and optical transmission, mobile communications and enterprise solutions. Earnings per share come in at €0.13, including a tax gain and a one-time capital gain.

L'Oreal was up €2.15 to €62.30 after the bank UBS upgraded the company to buy from neutral and raised its target to €70 from €62 as second-quarter sales rebounded. The bank Fideuram Warngy raised its rating to hold from reduce and kept its €62 target price. Earlier, the company posted first-half sales of €7.16 billion, up 3.5%, with like-for-like sales up 4.1%. The numbers were at the top end of forecasts. The group also said that if the present strengthening of the main currencies against the euro is maintained, exchange rates should have a slightly positive impact on 2005 sales figures.

Havas advertising group was up €0.12 to €4.52, as the company's board meets today and will decide on the possible appointment of major shareholder Vincent Bollore as non-executive chairman, the newspaper Les Echos reported. The daily says Bollore would be accompanied by four other vice-presidents. Another management re-shuffle includes promoting four of the company's internal managers to the post of general directors.

Germany

Volkswagen was up €0.42 to €40.43 after the company appointed Bernd Osterloh as the new head of its workers council and board executive committee. The Financial Times reported that CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder is visiting an industry conference in Brussels amid speculation he is considering closing a plant there. Separately, the company's supervisory board postponed its meeting to decide on management board member Peter Hartz's resignation from Tuesday to Wednesday. The company will also hold an analyst conference call on Wednesday. The bank Merck Finck expects additional information about the most recent scandal and the company's strategy and personnel planning. Also, the company said that it sold more cars in China during the first half than its rivals, earning 18% of local market share.

Insurance and financial services firm Allianz was down €0.85 to €98.46 as traders said that Goldman Sachs is placing 11.4 million shares at between €98.8 and €99.25 on behalf of insurer Munich Re, which is reducing its holding to 5% from 8%.

Telecom group Mobilcom was up €0.71 to €20.10 after the broker Sal Oppenheim increased its fair value to €25 from €23. The broker said that it sees no acquisition target that would be an excellent fit for the combined Mobilcom and Freenet coming available within the next 12 months. The likelihood of a large extra dividend, then, is very high, according to the borker, which maintains a strong buy rating.

Netherlands

Royal Dutch oil group was down €0.75 to €53.25, after the company announced that it has reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought against it by shareholders regarding the overstatement of oil and gas reserves. If the settlement is finally approved by the court, the company will pay $90 million to eligible participants and up to $1 million expenses and costs.

Nordics

Oil and aluminium company Norsk Hydro was down 7.00 Norwegian kroner to 629.00 kroner, after the company signed a deal with the Moroccan authorities together with British Dana Petroleum and the Moroccan oil group ONAREP. The deal includes a total of four offshore licences and a decision to commence drilling operations is expected by early 2007.

Cruise ship group Royal Caribbean was down 5.50 Norwegian kroner to 319.00 kroner after the investment bank Carnegie reiterated its outperform rating ahead of the company's second-quarter results due on July 28, which will be a positive trigger.


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