Why Unilever, Whitbread, and Lonmin Should Lag the FTSE 100 Today

LONDON -- We might be getting some upbeat earnings reports, and a further European Central Bank interest rate cut may well be in the cards, but that hasn't done much to lift the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) today: The index is down seven points to 6,451 as of 8:05 a.m. EDT.

That is only a modest fall, mind, and there are constituents of the various FTSE indexes that are falling further. Here are three underperforming today.

Unilever (LSE: ULVR  ) (NYSE: UL  )
Unilever shares have dipped 1.1% to 2,774 pence this morning after the household-consumables producer announced plans to increase its stake in its publicly listed Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Unilever. Unilever currently owns 52.48% of the Indian company but hopes to acquire up to 75%. To that end, the firm has made an open offer of 600 rupees per share.

Chief executive Paul Polman said, "The long heritage and great brands of Hindustan Unilever, and the significant growth potential of a country with 1.3 billion people makes India a strategic long term priority for the business."

Whitbread (LSE: WTB  )
Shares in Whitbread have fallen back 2.2% to 2,553 pence today after a recent surge, on the release of annual results. Revenue at the hotels and restaurants group rose by 14.2% to 2.03 billion pounds in the year to Feb. 28, with like-for-like sales up 3.7%. Underlying pre-tax profit is up 11.4% to 356.5 million pounds, with underlying earnings per share up 12% to 150.45 pence.

That allowed the company to lift its full-year dividend by 12% to 57.4 pence per share for a yield of 2.2%. Although the share price fall might suggest otherwise, these figures beat market expectations.

Lonmin (LSE: LMI  )
Troubled South Africa-based miner Lonmin, whose shares are down more than 50% over the past 12 months, have suffered a further dip of 6% to 268 pence this morning. This time the news was off an "incident" at its Number Two Furnace, which caused no injuries but has resulted in the furnace being shut down. The timing is unfortunate -- just after the Number One Furnace had been shut down for a planned upgrade -- and it will take an estimated 30 to 40 days to get it fully repaired.

This latest setback comes a week after a fatality at Lonmin's K3 shaft led to the suspension of drilling and blasting at that site.

Finally, reliable dividends can more than compensate for the day-to-day ups and downs of share prices. So how about a company that's offering a 5.7% yield and could be set for some nice share-price appreciation, too? It's the subject of our brand-new report "The Motley Fool's Top Income Share For 2013," which you can get completely free of charge -- but it will only be available for a limited period, so click here to get your copy today.


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