Small is bountiful

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We have a lot of big results today but the more interesting stuff is at the smaller end of things: our old friends Debt Free Direct and Torex Retail – plus Imperial Energy.

Imperial is today’s good news story. Its shares are up almost 40 per cent - valuing it at more than £600m - after it said an audit showed a 150 per cent increase in its probable reserves of oil. It has 15 fields in western Siberia.

Debt Free Direct, the IVA specialist, has managed to issue a second profit warning this year. This year’s pre-tax profits will now be 10-15 per cent lower than the market’s already diminished expectations. The shares are off 5 per cent.

And more strangeness at Torex Retail. Iain Lynam, the restructuring expert brought in a few weeks ago, is leaving the board with immediate effect and being replaced by another turnaround expert and colleague of his from Aaronite Partners, Michael Grant. He will be a non-executive director. The other person leaving the board immediately is Michael Carrell, who made a fortune from selling a business to Torex Retail. Why?

Lord Browne took a pay cut again last year, according to the annual report out today. This is no surprise but we’ll do something as we are working on other BP stuff today.

Acquisitions and higher commodity prices generated a 56 per cent increase in revenues to $17.6bn and a 59 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to $3.9bn for Xstrata in 2006, ahead of expectations. Rebecca Bream says they sound ready for another acquisition, having just bought Falconbridge.

Premier Foods, owner of Branston pickle and Oxo, announced a 12.2 per cent rise in pre-tax profits after recent acquisitions and said trading in the first two months of 2007 was in line with expectations.

International Power, which owns power stations in 18 countries, forecast further growth in its recovering US business as full-year figures were swelled by soaring electricity prices and acquisitions. The group reported that full-year pre-tax profits rose from £419m to £624m.

Other results around today come from Inchcape (FY good but cutting back on up-market cars, so getting less interesting), CRH, Ashtead (Q3s headline bad, underlying OK), Redrow (interims in line), John Wood (strong), Meggitt (mixed, plus rights issue), Admiral (better than expect but fears about motor market), Manganese Bronze (interims, new TX4 taxi goes down well) and Travis Perkins (disappointing performance at Wickes).

And, at the very small end, Fonebak, which recycles and repairs mobile phones, saw its shares tumble 40 per cent after issuing a profit warning.

Rumour of the day: Neil Hume is picking up talk of a bid for Sportingbet from Bwin of Austria at 65p-70p a share.

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