City briefs: United Utilities; Johnson Service Group; Blue Prism

North West water company United Utilities has reported a higher pre-tax profit for the first half of its financial year.

For the six months to 30 September 2021, the FTSE 100 company reported pre-tax profits of £212.7m, up from £201.1m in the first half of the year.

First-half revenue rose to £932.3m, up from £894.4m for the same period last year.

As a result, underlying operating profit was up 4.5% at £332.8m.

For the full year ending March 31, the company forecast that revenue will rise around 2%, reflecting higher overall consumption.

United Utilities declared an interim dividend of 14.50 pence a share, up from 14.41 pence a year earlier.

Steve Mogford, CEO, said: “At a time when many families are struggling with a higher cost of living, we have reduced typical water bills for households in our region by 6 per cent in real terms over the last two years.

“We’re also offering more help than ever before for vulnerable customers and households that are struggling to pay.

“Climate change and population growth are challenges we must all confront, and we will continue to invest to make our services more resilient and strengthen our ability to respond to, and recover from, extreme weather events.

“Our £2 billion investment programme will also help our region’s economy to grow, generate jobs and develop skills in our communities.

“We’re committed to delivering our six carbon pledges, which will help us achieve our ambition of net zero by 2030. We have already delivered our pledge to source 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources. As well as reducing our carbon footprint, we are committed to protecting the natural environment and ensuring no net loss of biodiversity.”

Johnson Service Group

North West textile services provider Johnson Service Group expects profits to be in line with expectations as the hospitality sector show signs of pandemic recovery.

In a trading update this morning, the group said it also expects revenue to slightly out-perform offsetting additional rising energy costs.

It said revenues from its workwear division remained similar to August and was 98% of normal levels.

Workwear revenue for the 10 months to 31 October 2021 was £107.1m compare to last year’s £107.6m.

Its HORECA catering division has also remained at a similar level to August, at over 80% of normal as customers in contract catering and airport hotel locations have not yet returned to normal levels of trading and continue to lag behind restaurants and hotels which cater more for leisure travellers.

HORECA revenue for the 10 months to 31 October 2021 was £107.1m, up from £90.1m for the same period last year.

In September the company completed the acquisition of Lilliput (Dunmurry) for £6.1m on a debt free, cash free basis and subject to an adjustment for normalised working capital.

Lilliput, which has some 130 employees and operates from a 25,000 sq ft leasehold processing facility based in Dunmurry, Belfast, is the market leader within the textile services sector in Northern Ireland.

The acquisition provides JSG with a presence in a geographical area where it was not previously represented “and which offers further opportunity for growth.”

It added: “We anticipate further recovery of hospitality volumes into 2022 although it remains difficult to predict the exact timing.”

Blue Prism has set a date for a shareholder’s meeting in connection with the Vista acquisition and rival bid from SS&C Technologies.

The group said meeting will take place on 9 December allowing  SS&C due diligence access equal to that which was provided to Vista.

The board is  said it continues to evaluate the SS&C proposal with its financial adviser and SS&C has not yet confirmed whether or not it intends to make a firm offer for Blue Prism.

“Therefore, at this stage, the directors of Blue Prism continue to believe that the Vista Offer is in the best interests of Blue Prism Shareholders and continue to recommend it,” it said.

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