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Progressive profit jumps on higher net premiums


Progressive Corp. said its fourth-quarter earnings rose 23% as the home and auto insurer benefited from higher net premiums and paid out a smaller portion of those premiums to cover claims.

The company has largely posted solid results lately, with higher net premiums written and more aggressive advertising spending helping the bottom line.

Progressive is the fourth-largest auto insurer in the country and offers coverage for cars, trucks, boats and recreational vehicles. Last month, Progressive said it planned boost its stake in American Strategic Insurance and eventually acquire the entire company, as part of the auto insurer’s efforts to expand its home insurance offerings.

Overall, Progressive reported a profit of $370.2 million, or 63 cents a share, up from $299.8 million, or 50 cents a share, a year earlier.

The latest period included net realized investment gains of $26.2 million, while the year-earlier period included net realized investment gains of $77 million.

Net premiums written reached $4.61 billion, while net premiums were $4.94 billion, an increase of 14% for each. Excluding an additional week in the latest period, the growth on both measures was 6%.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share profit of 45 cents and net premiums written of $4.47 billion.

Progressive’s combined ratio, or the portion of premiums used to cover claims, fell to 90.9% from 93.8%.

For December, Progressive reported that the number of policies in force rose 2% for both its auto and personal lines from the year-earlier period.

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/progressive-profit-jumps-on-higher-net-premiums-2015-01-28

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Acuity Brands sales, profit jump on LED demand


Acuity Brands Inc. said its earnings rose in the most recent period as demand for LED lights continued to bolster the company’s sales.

The results topped analysts’ expectations.

Strong demand for renovations and retrofits has helped buoy the company’s results. Chief Executive Vernon J. Nagel said in a news release Friday that the company’s performance through December reflected overall positive trends in the industry.

With construction improving in U.S. nonresidential markets, Acuity could also see increased business for new lighting projects and energy-efficient lighting.

Sales of LED products rose more than 70% in the most recent period compared with the year-ago period, and they accounted for about 42% of total sales.

For the quarter ended Nov. 30, the company posted earnings of $51.1 million, or $1.17 a share, up from $44.5 million, or $1.03 a share, in the prior-year period.

Revenue rose 13% to $647.4 million.

Analysts had projected $1.13 a share in earnings for the fiscal first quarter and $639 million in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters.

Acuity said sales volume grew 14% thanks to broad-based growth across the company’s categories. The growth was offset slightly by an unfavorable change in the mix of products sold and product prices, the company said, adding that foreign-exchange pressures had a negative impact to a smaller degree.

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/acuity-brands-sales-profit-jump-on-led-demand-2015-01-09

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Micron profit soars on stronger sales, margins


Micron Technology Inc. said its earnings surged as the memory-chip maker benefited from stronger sales and margins, as well as lower costs, during its quarter ended Dec. 4.

Micron shares, however, fell 5.8% to $30.95 in recent after-hours trading as revenue missed analysts’ expectations, though it was in line with company estimates. Through Tuesday’s close, the shares have risen 59% in the past 12 months.

The company, based in Boise, Idaho, is widely known as the last U.S. maker of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, which is a key component in personal computers. With the acquisition of Elpida Memory Inc. in 2013, Micron became the second-largest DRAM producer in the world after Samsung Electronics Co.

Micron also supplies NAND flash memory chips, which are used in smartphones, digital cameras and tablets to store photos.

Industry consolidation and an increasing array of products that use memory chips have benefited Micron’s businesses.

Chief Executive Mark Durcan said favorable market conditions contributed to a strong performance in the latest quarter, with record revenue and operating cash flows.

For the first quarter, Micron reported a profit of $1 billion, or 84 cents a share, up from $358 million, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier. The year earlier period included a litigation-settlement related charge of $233 million. Excluding debt-restructuring losses and other one-time items, earnings rose to 97 cents from 77 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share profit of 92 cents.

Revenue increased 13% to $4.57 billion in line with the company’s estimate of $4.45 billion to $4.7 billion. Analysts had expected revenue growth of 14% to $4.61 billion.

Gross margin rose to 35.8% from 31.7%.

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/micron-profit-soars-on-stronger-sales-margins-2015-01-06-164854551

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Brown-Forman cuts outlook on dollar concerns


Brown-Forman Corp. lowered its earnings outlook for the year, reflecting the impact of a stronger U.S. dollar on the Jack Daniel’s maker’s performance.

The company’s results for the October quarter–higher sales and a slight uptick in profit–fell below analysts’ expectations.

The Louisville, Ky., whiskey maker cut its profit guidance by 10 cents to a range of $3.15 to $3.35 a share. The company said it now expects foreign exchange to hurt earnings by 15 cents a share, opposed to its previous projection of six cents a share.

Chief Executive Paul Varga said in a news release that the company’s results for the first half of its fiscal year came in roughly in line with its expectations even as the spirits industry contended with a tough trading environment.

“As anticipated, underlying net sales growth accelerated in our second quarter, and we believe that underlying trends remain favorable as we head into the important holiday selling season,” he added.

The Jack Daniel’s trademark posted underlying sales growth of 5%, while the brand’s Tennessee Honey jumped 32% over the six months ended Oct. 31.

The company also said it would roll out its new Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire whiskey during its April quarter after a successful limited test.

For the three months ended Oct. 31, Brown-Forman posted earnings of $208 million, or 97 cents a share, up from $206 million, or 96 cents a share, in the prior-year quarter.

Sales rose 5.2% to $1.14 billion.

Analysts had projected earnings of $1.04 a share and revenue of $1.16 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

Brown-Forman maintained its guidance for underlying sales growth for the year.

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/brown-forman-cuts-outlook-on-dollar-concerns-2014-12-03-84855433

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Poundland profit up 12%; on track for store opens


LONDON–Poundland Group PLC (PLND.LN), a retail chain, on Thursday reported a 12% rise in half year pretax profit and said it remains confident of further progress throughout the year.

Pretax profit in the 26 weeks ended Sept 28 rose to 9.3 million pounds ($14.6 million) from GBP8.4 million in the same period last year. Underlying pretax profit was up 34.2% at GBP12.6 million, while total sales rose 15.0% to GBP528.2 million.

The company declared an interim dividend of 1.5 pence per share and said it is on track to open 60 net new stores in the U.K. and Ireland in fiscal 2015.

Shares closed Wednesday at 310.0 pence.

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/poundland-profit-up-12-on-track-for-store-opens-2014-11-27

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Rémy Cointreau profit down 25% on Chinese slump


PARIS– Rémy Cointreau SA said Thursday that net profit fell 25% in the first half of its financial year as the French drinks maker continues to battle a slump in demand from Chinese consumers.

The maker of Rémy Martin cognac said net profit fell to EUR64 million ($80 million) from EUR85.5 million as cognac sales continued to drop sharply in its crucial Chinese market. Excluding the effects of currency swings and an expired distribution contract in the U.S., profit fell 14%.

Operating profit fell 23% to EUR102 million. Rémy reported last month that sales fell 16% in the first six months ended Sept. 30.

Europe’s largest drinks makers have been hurt by falling sales in China amid the government’s roughly two-year-old austerity campaign, which banned extravagant gift-giving among officials, pressuring sales of expensive bottles of liquor.

Rémy Cointreau has been among the hardest hit, due to its high exposure to the Chinese market. The company makes over half of its sales and profit from its flagship Rémy Martin cognac.

Drinks makers have seen some improvements of late though. Sales fell less sharply in the most recent quarters and Rémy’s larger rival Pernod Ricard SA last month said it expects sales in the country to continue to improve gradually in the months to come.

Despite weak data in the first half of the fiscal year, Rémy said it still targets organic growth both in sales and operating profit in the full year. This target excludes the loss of a distribution contract in the U.S., which would have weighed on sales further.

–Inti Landauro contributed to this article.

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SOURCE: www.marketwatch.com/story/remy-cointreau-profit-down-25-on-chinese-slump-2014-11-27

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Petrofac warns on net profit on lower oil price


LONDON — Petrofac Ltd. warned investors on Monday that it will report net profit at the lower end of its forecast earnings range this year, the latest sign of how falling oil prices are unsettling the oil-services sector.

Petrofac PFC, -25.57% said that net profit is likely to fall again next year because of the weak oil market and problems at some of its projects.

The company which designs, builds and operates oil and gas infrastructure said it would turn in profit at the lower end of the $580 million to $600 million range provided in previous guidance. Petrofac reported net profit of $650 million in 2013.

But based on latest expectations of future oil prices, the company’s integrated energy services unit would likely report around $45 million less in net profit next year “compared with previous guidance and current market expectations,” Petrofac said.

“This has been a difficult period for Petrofac and the industry,” said Ayman Asfari, Petrofac’s Chief Executive.

“In the main our project portfolio is in good shape, but it is clear that on a small number of projects our execution has fallen short of the high standards we set for ourselves,” Asfari said.

Petrofac had undertaken “robust action” to address the problems at the projects, leaving the company on “a surer footing,” he added.

SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/petrofac-warns-on-2015-net-profit-on-lower-oil-price-2014-11-24

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Baidu posts higher revenue on mobile strength


Baidu Inc. posted a 52% revenue increase for the third quarter, with a smaller increase in profit as its expenses were higher.

The Chinese search engine said it had a “very strong” quarter, especially in mobile, with mobile traffic surpassing PC traffic during the quarter. Mobile revenue provided 36% of total revenue.

Baidu’s American depositary shares were down 1.2%, to $221.90, in recent late trading.

Baidu reported a third-quarter profit of 3.88 billion Chinese yuan ($631.5 million), or 11 yuan ($1.79) an ADS, compared with a profit of 3.05 billion yuan, or 8.63 an ADS, a year earlier.

Earnings per share excluding stock-based compensation were 11.67 yuan ($1.90) an ADS.

Revenue surged to 13.52 billion yuan from 8.89 billion.

For the fourth quarter, Baidu expects revenue of 13.85 billion to 14.25 billion yuan, compared with the 14.04 billion yuan expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Baidu, which makes the bulk of its top line from search advertising, has been has been spending heavily to migrate its desktop search advertising prowess to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. The company has also invested in other ways–such as gaming–to contend in the rapidly growing mobile market in China.

In the third quarter, traffic acquisition cost was equal to about 12.9% of revenue, up from 11.7% a year earlier.

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/baidu-posts-higher-revenue-on-mobile-strength-2014-10-29-174852542

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Cintas profit rises on investment gains, margins


Cintas Corp. CTAS, -0.48% said its fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 41% as the workplace uniform maker posted an investment gain, as well as additional gains related to its document-shredding partnership with Shred-it International Inc. and stronger operating margins.

Cintas and Shred-it in April combined their document-shredding businesses into a new partnership 42% owned by Cintas. The company also has been exploring options for its document storage and imaging business, which it reclassified as a discontinued operation for the latest period.

For the recently started fiscal year, the Cincinnati-based Cintas adjusted its outlook to reflect the reclassification of its document storage and imaging business and its view of the U.S. economy.

The company now expects per-share earnings of $3.20 to $3.29 and revenue of $4.4 billion to $4.475 billion, compared with its previous estimate for a per-share profit of $3.06 to $3.15 and revenue of $4.43 billion to $4.53 billion.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Scott Farmer said the company continues to see “inconsistent employment figures resulting in no real change to our customers’ hiring patterns, and we see heightened global uncertainty that may affect U.S. businesses.”

For the period ended Aug. 31, Cintas reported a profit of $110.1 million, or 93 cents a share, upfrom $77.8 million, or 63 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding investment-sale gains, asset-sale gains and other items, adjusted earnings from continuing operations rose to 78 cents from 62 cents.

Revenue edged up 0.2% to $1.1 billion. Excluding acquisitions and impacts of the Shred-It venture, organic revenue grew 7.2%.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share profit of 75 cents and revenue of $1.1 billion.

Operating margin rose to 14.8% from 12.7%.

The uniform rentals and ancilliary products segment posted revenue growth of 8.1% to $856.9 million.

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SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/cintas-profit-rises-on-investment-gains-margins-2014-09-29

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Greif cuts outlook on higher costs, weaker results


Greif Inc. on Monday cut its earnings outlook as the industrial-packaging company pointed to higher expenses and weaker-than-expected operational results for the rest of the year.

Class A shares of Greif fell 12% in recent premarket trading.

The company now projects $1.98 to $2.08 a Class A share in earnings for the fiscal year, compared with its earlier guidance of $2.48 to $2.80 a Class A share.

Greif also said it expects to write down $48.4 million for its third quarter, stemming from its “actions to strengthen its business portfolio.” The write-downs aren’t reflected in the company’s revised projection.

Greif had said in June, when it previously cut its earnings outlook, that it expected the “slow motion global economic recovery” to continue during the rest of its fiscal year. That, in turn, would result in moderate improvement in sales volume and slight increases in raw material costs in certain of its regions, the company said.

Greif also said at the time that it was pursuing plans to speed up its restructuring while exploring the sale of noncore businesses.

The company said later in June that it would close its Flexible Products & Services plant in Saudi Arabia by the end of August, and reallocate equipment to other facilities run by the Greif FPS joint venture with National Scientific Co. Ltd.

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SOURE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/greif-cuts-outlook-on-higher-costs-weaker-results-2014-08-25

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