TOP NEWS: IAG Profits Soar As Iberia Revamp Continues
(Alliance News Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Friday.----------COMPANIES----------International Consolidated Airlines Group's efforts to slash costs at Spanish airline Iberia continued to pay off, as it reported a big rise in operating profit in the second quarter Friday and said it expects a big jump in profit for the full year. The parent of British Airways, Iberia and Spain's Vueling also moved to take capacity out of the market, after several European airlines in recent weeks warned that overcapacity was weighing on fares and hitting profits. IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh said the airline group would reduce its planned 2014 winter season capacity by three percentage points.----------Rexam said its half-year results were in line with expectations, despite reporting a marginal decline in revenue and pretax profit as good volume growth was offset by the strength of sterling and metal premium costs reaching an all-time-high. The world's biggest can maker said revenue in the half-year to June 30, 2014, declined 5% to GBP1.90 billion from GBP2.0 billion last year while pretax profit logged a 2% decline to GBP166 million from the GBP169 million reported for the period in 2013. The company has increased its interim dividend by 2% to 5.8 pence per share from 5.7 pence paid last year.----------BG Group said notice has been given by one of the unions representing workers at the Queensland Curtis Liquefied Natural Gas project that it will take protected industrial action later this month. The Construction, Forestry, Mining And Energy Union, one of four unions representing workers at the plant on Curtis Island, Queensland, Australia, said it would take the action on August 7. BG said in a statement it was unaware of the scope or duration of the proposed industrial action and, therefore, said there is no change to the current date of the expected first LNG from the project of the final quarter of 2014.----------GlaxoSmithKline and Genmab said late Thursday that at an independent data monitoring committee interim analysis of its phase III study of ofatumumab showed that it had met its primary endpoint of improving progressing free survival. The study evaluated maintenance therapy with the treatment against no further treatment in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia who responded to treatment at relapse. The committee did not identify any new safety signals, Glaxo said, and will continue to monitor patients for safety until all of the patients in the study complete therapy.----------Smith & Nephew upped its interim dividend and reiterated confidence in its outlook for the full year, even though second-quarter pretax profit declined due to costs relating to its acquisition of ArthroCare Corp. The medical devices company proposed an interim dividend of 11.0 cents, up from 10.4 cents in the previous year. It posted a pretax profit of USD128 million in the quarter, down from USD188 million a year earlier, despite seeing revenue rise to USD1.15 billion from USD1.07 billion. It was hit by acquisition costs of USD55 million, and USD30 million in amortisation.----------UK telecoms regulator Ofcom proposed revised licence fees for mobile spectrum which will significantly increase the amounts mobile operators pay for their spectrum capacity, although they are lower than previous proposals made in October 2013. Mobile network operators Vodafone Group, Telefónica O2 UK, EE Ltd, and Hutchinson 3G UK Ltd currently pay a total of GBP24.8 million a year for the 900 megahertz spectrum and GBP39.7 million for the 1800 megahertz spectrum. Under the proposals made on Friday, they would pay a total of GBP109.3 million per year for the 900 megahertz band, and GBP137.5 million for the 1800 megahertz spectrum.----------Capital & Counties Properties reported a fall in profit for the first half due to lower valuation gains on its portfolio. The London-focused property investor and developer posted pretax profit of GBP139.8 million for the six months ended June 30, down from GBP211.1 million a year earlier. The company said valuation gains were GBP134.4 million during the period, compared with GBP187.9 million a year earlier. Its results in the previous year were also boosted by GBP6.4 million in profit from its share of joint ventures which did not reoccur in 2014. Revenue crept up to GBP54.2 million, from GBP51.1 million, as rental income rose to GBP51.4 million from GBP42.2 million a year earlier.----------IMI said it has completed its business review and plans to double operating profit by 2019, even as it reported a fall in profit for the first half of this year. The company said it has developed a five year plan to "harness its full potential to deliver sustainable accelerated growth and shareholder value." FTSE100-listed IMI posted pretax profit of GBP105.8 million for the six months ended June 30, down from GBP133.9 million a year earlier, as revenue fell to GBP808 million from GBP832 million, partly due to the strength of sterling.----------Rentokil Initial said that it has retained its outlook for the full-year as it reported a jump in second-quarter pretax profit on recent acquisitions and organic growth but a decline in revenue as the company continued to face challenging trading conditions in Europe. The pest control company said pretax profit was GBP47.5 million, up 58% from GBP30.1 million a year earlier. Revenue was GBP442.1 million, 3.3% lower than the GBP457.4 million reported last year. The FTSE 250-listed company has increased its interim dividend by 10% for the half-year to 0.77 pence per share from the 0.70 pence per share paid last year.----------Direct Line Insurance Group reported an increase in first half pretax profit, as a weaker operating profit from ongoing operations after the severe UK winter weather was more than offset by a better result in its run-off segment and lower restructuring costs. In a statement, the insurer said it made a GBP225.1 million pretax profit in the six months ended June 30, compared with GBP208.8 million in the corresponding period last year. Direct Line increased its interim dividend by 4.8% to 4.4 pence and said it will pay a 10.0 pence special dividend to shareholders.----------William Hill said that World Cup wagering drove operating profit higher in its second quarter, though this was not enough to boost its half-year results as the group recorded a drop in pretax profit. The UK betting firm said pretax profit in the 26 weeks to July 1 was GBP98.6 million, down 26% from GBP133.7 million in the comparable period last year. The recent football World Cup in Brazil provided the FTSE 250-listed company with a boost: William Hill reported a "record-breaking" performance for the tournament with online wagering up 211% compared with the last tournament in 2010 and said these results drove second quarter operating profit growth.----------Man Group reported USD800.0 million of net inflows in the second quarter, which combined with a USD1.4 billion positive investment movement to help send funds under management up by USD2.7 billion to USD57.7 billion at the end of June. The investment manager's funds under management were also buoyed by sales of USD5.9 billion outweighing USD5.1 billion of redemptions over the period. Over the first six months of the year as a whole, Man Group's funds under management increased by 7%.----------MARKETS----------FTSE 100: down 1.4% at 6636.91FTSE 250: down 1.3% at 15288.39AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.8% at 762.26--------------------GBP-USD: down at USD1.6830EUR-USD: up at USD1.3393GOLD: up at USD1285.39 per ounceOIL (Brent): up at USD105.62 a barrel(changes since end of previous GMT day)----------ECONOMICS AND GENERAL----------UK manufacturing activity expanded at a slower than expected rate in July as growth in output and new orders slowed, the results of a survey by Markit Economics and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Logistics, or CIPS, showed. The Makit/CIPS manufacturing purchasing managers' index, or PMI, decreased to 55.4 in July from 57.2 in June, but remained above the survey average of 51.5. Economists expected the index to come in at 57.2.----------At least 10 Ukrainian soldiers were killed when pro-Russian rebels ambushed the convoy they were travelling in near the Malaysia Airlines crash site, the army said. Four separatists also died in the assault, army spokesman Alexei Dmitraschkowski said. The troop column came under attack near the town of Shakhtarsk, in the eastern Donetsk region, a rebel stronghold that has been the scene of intense fighting in recent days. Unarmed Dutch and Australian forensic teams arrived at the wreckage of flight MH17 for the first time on Thursday after clashes near the debris field repeatedly foiled their attempts to access the area.----------The manufacturing sector in China expanded at an accelerated pace in July, the latest PMI from HSBC and Markit Economics revealed on Friday - coming in with an 18-month high score of 51.7. That's actually lower than last week's flash estimate score of 52.0, which is what analysts were expecting today. But it's still up sharply from 50.7 in June. A reading below 50 signals contraction in a sector, while a score above means expansion.----------Manufacturing activity in Japan expanded at a slower pace in July as output contracted, results of a survey by Markit Economics showed Friday. The Markit/JMMA purchasing managers' index fell to 50.5 in July from 51.5 in June, indicating weakened activity though the index remained above the no-change mark of 50. Manufacturing output contracted in July, after increasing in the previous month, as demand was affected by the increase in sales tax. Stock purchases declined for the first time since November 2013 in July. However, new work continued to rise in July but the rate of increase was slower than in June. Export orders grew for the first time since March, though at a slow pace.-----------The Fitch rating agency downgraded Argentina to a "restricted default" rating because the country had missed the deadline to pay off some of its bonds. The midnight Wednesday deadline was a grace period from a June 30 deadline granted by a New York judge. The downgrade was the second from a ratings agency after Standard & Poor's lowered the country's credit rating to selective default late Wednesday.----------Moody's investor service revised its rating outlook for Argentina to 'negative', citing continued economic stagnation in the country. At the same time, Moody's affirmed Argentina's Caa1 issuer rating, confirmed the (p)Caa2 rating for its foreign bonds and confirmed the Ca rating on the original defaulted bonds. The long term issuer rating was placed on negative outlook. Earlier in the day, data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census showed that Argentina's industrial output declined 0.3% year-over-year in June, a slower rate of decline than the 4.3% drop expected by economists. In May, output had declined 4.9%.----------A turnaround in the three areas of financial conditions, expectations and economic activity brought about by the introduction of quantitative and qualitative easing has positioned the Japanese economy on track to achieve the 2% price stability target, as expected, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in a speech on Friday. Kuroda said that the domestic economy has been recovering moderately, despite the softness induced by the consumption tax hike. The Governor expressed confidence that the economy would grow at a pace above its potential over the coming three years. The improvement in employment and income situation can help in overcoming the effects of the consumption tax on consumer spending, he added.----------A 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire began in the Gaza Strip as Palestinian casualty figures indicated that the current conflict had become the deadliest fighting in Israel and the Palestinian territories since 1967. Hours before the ceasefire was due to take effect, 14 Palestinians were killed in a pre-dawn airstrike in the southern city of Khan Younis and tank shelling on Bani Suhaila village east of the city, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said. Five Israeli soldiers were killed by mortar fire late Thursday, the Israeli military said on Twitter, bringing the number of soldiers who have died in the current conflict to 61. Some 1,458 Palestinians had now been killed since Israel's operation Protective Edge began on July 8, al-Qedra said.----------The World Health Organization is increasing efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa, where more than 700 people have died since March in the worst-ever outbreak of the disease. WHO and the presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are to launch a 100-million-dollar response plan Friday to boost the number of medical personnel and increase preventative measures. The US issued a travel warning for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the potential risks of travellers being exposed to the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma had criticized the WHO for not doing enough to halt the Ebola virus.----------Indian resistance prevented the ratification of a World Trade Organization deal to streamline trade late Thursday despite last-minute talks to find a compromise. The deadline for ratifying the trade facilitation agreement aimed at standardizing and streamlining customs procedures expired at midnight. The terms were agreed in Bali, Indonesia in December. New Delhi insisted that in exchange for signing the deal it must see more progress on a parallel pact giving it more freedom to subsidize and stockpile food grains than is allowed by WTO rules.----------
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