Another day of mediocrity for the S&P/ASX 200 (INDEXASX: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) today, with our major index losing 0.44% to trade at 4,979 points.
Company results continue to roll in, driving many of today’s big gainers:
QBE Insurance Group Ltd (ASX: QBE) rose 9% to $11.33 after a ho-hum set of full-year results today, revealing a 1% increase in profit on a constant-currency basis. It seems investors were expecting a lot worse, and today’s results plus an increase in dividend payments alleviated investor fears. QBE has previously declared that its expense ratio is higher than global peers, and the company has identified several areas for cost savings and business improvement. Unlike many other ASX-listed insurers, QBE also has growing operations in important growth markets globally.
QBE shares are down 3% in the past 12 months.
Healthscope Ltd (ASX: HSO) gained 5% to $2.36 after it released its half-yearly results this morning, revealing a 52% increase in profit. A recent decision to exit the Australian pathology division looks extremely shrewd in hindsight, given the regulatory uncertainty facing this area, and Healthscope’s remaining hospital and pathology divisions posted decent growth. However, a fair chunk of the increase in profit came from reduced finance costs rather than directly from growth.
Healthscope shares are down 15% in the past 12 months.
Qube Holdings Ltd (ASX: QUB) rose 10% to $2.21 after the company announced it was in discussions with Brookfield over a new takeover proposal for port and rail business Asciano Ltd (ASX: AIO). Under the terms of the deal, which was structured to pass ACCC scrutiny, Qube and its consortium would acquire the Patrick Container Terminals business, while Brookfield and its partners would receive the Bulk and Automotive Ports Services business.
Qube will release its half-yearly report tomorrow, and shares in the infrastructure business are down 16% in the past year.
Spotless Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: SPO) rose 8% to $1.20 after it also released its interim results to the market today, revealing a 19% increase in revenue and a 20% decline in Net Profit After Tax (NPAT), or a 14% increase in underlying NPAT. Spotless recently shocked the market after a negative trading update early in December, and today’s results appear to have mollified shareholders somewhat – although shares are still a long way from previous highs.
Spotless shares have lost 41% of their value in the past year.
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