LONDON: The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) dipped early this morning, despite the news that the U.K. economy has so far avoided a triple-dip recession by growing 0.3% in the first quarter of the year. But sentiment seems to have settled after the index was shaken by a couple of disappointing results, and the FTSE is now 11 points up on the day, to 6,442.
So which big companies have held the FTSE back today? We take a look:
Unilever (ULVR -4.81%) shares fell 55p (1.9%), to 2,790p, after a first-quarter update told us of lower-than-anticipated sales in Europe. Double-digit growth in emerging markets did, however, help drive underlying sales up 4.9%. And the firm was happy enough with these figures to lift its quarterly dividend by 10.7% to 26.9 euro cents per share.
Unilever shares have had a very good 12 months, rising by around 35%. But that does put them on a forward P/E of 20 now, which some will see as perhaps a bit overpriced for a household consumables company.
Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca (AZN 0.06%) also saw its shares slip today, down 90p (2.6%) to 3,300p. After loss of exclusivity for several drugs, including Seroquel IR and Crestor, in various markets, revenue for the first quarter fell by 12%, leading to a 31% drop in pre-tax profit at constant exchange rates.
That was largely anticipated, but it does surely put more pressure on the firm's recently announced plans for rejuvenating the business and getting profits back on track. With a couple of years of earnings falls expected, AstraZeneca shares are currently on a forward P/E of under 10.
Kier Group (KIE -0.26%) shares dipped 9p (1%) to 1,190p after a clarification to yesterday's interim management statement stressed that previous comments regarding management expectations were not meant to be profit forecasts. The update itself was pretty positive, telling us that the construction group is on course to meet its expectations for the year.
But the real impact on the share price was from yesterday's news of the firm's recommended offer for the acquisition of May Gurney Integrated Services (LSE: MAYG). The deal, which will be settled partly in shares and partly in cash, values the takeover target at £221m, or 315p per share -- and that, unsurprisingly, gave May Gurney shares a boost, up 16% to today's 297p.
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