Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Compass Points Way to Brighter Trading Update

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Compass Points Way to Brighter Trading Update

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM ARMITAGE

MARKET REPORT

THEY say it is better to travel than to arrive. Well, if Compass's share price was anything to go by, the arrival of tomorrow's trading statement will not be including the customary profit warning.

Perhaps customary is a bit harsh, but few investors forget it was this time last year that the world's biggest caterer issued the first of three alerts that have conspired to wreak havoc.

The shares, comfortably above 320p in the preceding months, crashed to nearly 210p after that fateful day and have never recovered, though today they did jump 2p to 2301/4p.

Part of that was in the expectation that chief executive Mike Bailey will not disappoint the markets again. But much was down to speculation that there will be news on some hefty disposals.

Reports recently had it that Compass was to sell its transport catering operations - those Upper Crusts and Cafe Ritazzas at train stations.

Today, speculation was rife that bidders were already circling the division.

Frontrunner is said to be Autogrill of Italy. Some were doubting the story, claiming Bailey is more likely to be looking to cut costs rather than flog off flagship units, but questions will undoubtedly be asked tomorrow. A halfhearted denial from Autogrill did little to dampen the rumours.

After trading in positive territory for most of the morning, the market fell back in the afternoon with the FTSE 100 index retreating 3.1 to 5450.0.

Overnight gains in the oil price, which boosted Shell and BP in earlier trading, were pared back as the day progressed. However, the aforementioned oil majors still held on to some gains, up 13p to 1913p and 71/2p to 6701/2p respectively, but much of the early spark to trading dwindled.

American markets opened higher today but the Dow Jones was up just 2.3 at 10,445.9 after an initial 30-point rally within the first hour of trading.

What is it about the French that makes them want to buy our companies so much? Saint-Gobain bids for BPB, Pernod Ricard buys Allied Domecq, Lafarge takes over Blue Circle. Now, no fewer than two French bidders look set for a scrap to win London-based advertising buyer Aegis. …

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