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Why Debenhams, GKN, and Persimmon Should Beat the FTSE 100 Today

By Alan Oscroft - Apr 18, 2013 at 8:14AM

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Welcome boosts for Debenhams, GKN, and Persimmon.

LONDON -- After falling for four trading days in a row, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) is finally recovering a little ground today, up a modest 0.32% to 6,264 points by 7:50 a.m. EDT. Depressed commodities prices are still keeping mining shares down, and the mood seems to be generally bearish, with some fearing that we could be in for a fall back below the 6,000 level.

But some individual companies are doing fine. Here are three that are on the up today.

Interim results have sent Debenhams shares up 7.4% to 86 pence. Like-for-like sales rose 3.1% compared with the first half of last year, and though pre-tax profit fell by 5.4% to 120.3 million pounds, bottom-line earnings gained 2.7% to 7.6 pence per share. There will be an interim dividend of 1 pence per share, and the firm's long-term share buyback plan is progressing. And in these days when brick-and-mortar sales are not enough, it's good to hear that Debenhams' online sales grew by 46% to account for 12.7% of total sales.

Current forecasts suggest flat earnings this year, so we'll have to wait and see if that is upgraded now. There's a dividend yield of about 4% expected.

An interim update from GKN has sent the auto and aerospace engineer's share price 3.4% to 254 pence today after first-quarter sales rose 9% to 1.89 billion pounds, boosted by last year's acquisition of the former Volvo Aero (now GKN Aerospace Engine Systems). Pre-tax profit did fall a little, down 4% to 119 million pounds, but that was partly due to a one-off 23 million pound restructuring charge.

Chief executive Nigel Stein said: "With restructuring charges now largely behind us, we expect the remainder of the year to show improvement."

Persimmon (PSN 0.47%)
Shares in homebuilder Persimmon have gained almost 1% and are now up nearly 80% over the past 12 months. Today's boost came from an update to coincide with today's annual general meeting that told us of a "good start to 2013," with numbers of visitors to the firm's development sites up 5% during the first 15 weeks of the year.

The government's new "Help to Buy" measures have also boosted enquiries, which are running 30% ahead of last year (and were 24% ahead prior to the announcement of the scheme).

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