What to Watch: BP and Greggs profits jump, losses at Centrica, Sports Direct woes

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
First-quarter earnings at London-based BP beat expectations. Photo: Caroline Spiezio/AP

BP profits beat expectations

London-based BP (BP.L) said on Tuesday that its adjusted net income was $2.81bn (£2.25bn) in the second quarter, above analyst expectations of $2.48bn and almost roughly in line with the same period last year.

Production rose to 3.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, or 4% higher than last year, while cash flow from operations — excluding payments related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill — climbed 17%, to $8.2bn.

The result sets BP apart from other companies in the sector, who have had a run of weak earnings results.

“At the midpoint of our five-year plan, BP is right on target,” said CEO Bob Dudley on Tuesday.

“Reliable performance and disciplined growth across our businesses are delivering strong earnings, cash flow and returns to shareholders.”

Total said last week that net profit at the French oil and gas giant fell 26% to $2.8bn in its second quarter.

The company also said that it would sell $5bn in assets, in part as a hedge against volatile oil prices, which currently remain stuck between $50 and $60 a barrel.

Profits at Italian giant Eni (ENI.MI) and Norway’s Equinor (EQNR) also fell short of expectations.

Vegan sausage rolls boost Greggs

Greggs (GRG.L) on Tuesday said that profits jumped by 58% to £40.6m in the first half of the year, in part because of surging sales related to the introduction of its vegan sausage rolls.

Sales grew by 14.7% to £546m, compared with growth of just 5.2% in the same period last year.

The decades-old food retailer, which now has almost 2,000 stores across the UK, has bucked high street trends by expanding its vegan product range and adding gluten-free products.

The company said it plans to have opened an additional 100 stores by the end of 2019.

CEO Roger Whiteside said, however, that he expected like-for-like growth to slow in the second half of the year, since the same period in 2018 was also strong.

He also warned that Brexit continued to “present significant uncertainties.”

Fears for British Gas jobs as Centrica posts £446m losses

Shares in British Gas owner Centrica (CNA.L) tumbled 11% after it announced its CEO will step down next year, and accounts showed the company slid to a £446m loss in the first half of the year.

It comes after it was confirmed Iain Conn received a controversial 44% pay rise earlier this year, despite Britain’s biggest energy supplier losing hundreds of thousands of customers and planning to make heavy spending cuts.

A union leader called the results “calamitous” and said he feared for workers’ jobs with the company “haemorrhaging customers,” urging the firm not to axe more staff.

The company confirmed Conn will leave his post after the 2020 annual general meeting in its latest update to shareholders.

Grant Thornton quitting as Sports Direct auditor

Auditing firm Grant Thornton has told the Financial Conduct Authority that it plans to quit as the auditor of Mike Ashley’s embattled Sports Direct (SPD.L), according to the Financial Times.

The auditor, who has worked with Sports Direct since 2007, will reportedly step down after the company’s annual general meeting in September.

The move is in part because of concerns over the last-minute disclosure of a €674m Belgian tax bill, according to two people who spoke to the Financial Times.

Shares in Sports Direct plummeted on Monday morning but have since largely recovered after an “almighty fallout” from a set of delayed financial results on Friday, which also revealed problems with its House of Fraser takeover.

The company left investors rattled by repeatedly delaying the results, which were due to be released two weeks ago and then on Friday morning before markets opened.

European stocks mixed

European stocks got off to a mixed start on Tuesday. The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up by 0.16%, while Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down by 0.53%. France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was down by 0.21%.

This followed a strong trading session in Asia. The Nikkei 225 (^N225) is up 0.43%, and the SSE Composite (000001.SS) climbed by 0.39%. The Hang Seng (^HSI) was up by 0.14%.

Sterling is having its worst month since October 2016. It was down 0.45% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) on Tuesday, to around $1.216, and down 0.43% against the euro (GBPEUR=X), to around €1.109.

What to expect in the US

Futures are pointing to a lower opening for US stocks.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) are down by 0.05% and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) are down by 0.05%. Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) are up down by 0.10%.

Companies reporting later on Tuesday in the US include:

  • Apple (AAPL)

  • Under Armour (UAA)

  • Ralph Lauren (RL)

  • Proctor & Gamble (PG)