Sept 20: The grocers wheel out their goods

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- Sir Terry Leahy, as usual, managed to sound bored to the core about it but earlier Tuesday he unveiled another spectacular set of figures from Tesco. While his rivals thrash around beneath him, Sir Terry turned in a 19 per cent jump in pre-tax profits for the first half. However, even by his own Stygian standards, his remarks were downbeat: rising oil prices and falling consumer confidence are hurting. As a result, sales grew at the slowest rate for two years. Also, difficulties in Taiwan highlighted the risks associated with Tesco’s all-important international expansion strategy. The shares, which have performed very well for years, fell 12.8p to 313.7p. Lex has already pronounced, but you can also read Beth Rigby’s full analysis of the results at home and abroad, and their implications for the other supermarket groups, in tomorrow’s paper.

- Retail is very much the theme of the day. An Icelandic court has thrown out the case against Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, chief executive of Baugur, which owns large chunks of the British high street. This may prompt speculation that the company will re-enter the bidding for Somerfield and heighten expectations of what it will do with its 14 per cent stake in French Connection.

- Elsewhere in the sector, David Jones says he has no plans to step down as deputy chairman of Wm Morrison. The supermarket group’s chairman, Sir Ken Morrison, is understood to want City fund manager Paul Manduca to take on the role instead. Jones, who is also chairman of Next, was speaking to Kate Rankine of The Daily Telegraph in a fantastically candid interview on his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Definitely worth a read.

- Lest the paper look like The Grocer tomorrow, we are following stories in other sectors. Royal Dutch Shell has finally found a way to mitigate the tax impact merging the oil group’s two constituent parts, which fell hardest on UK-based shareholders of Royal Dutch. It is a mystery what took them so long. The result is that most of the 3,000 shareholders affected have already tendered their shares, so only up to about 400 will be offered new loan notes.

- The bidding for Domnick Hunter just gets hotter. The filtration, separation and purification company today agreed an improved cash offer from Eaton of the US (up from 675p a share to 690p), valuing the whole at £247.5m. This beats, by 10p, the latest offer from Parker Hannifin. The fact that the shares rose 4.5 per cent to 710p suggests some people think there may be more to come. Who says British engineering is out of fashion? Lisa Urquhart will explain what all the fuss is about tomorrow morning.

- Trafficmaster, which makes in-car navigation systems and has given investors a bumpy ride over the years, turns out to be another victim of MG Rover’s collapse. A bad debt from the carmaker pushed it into a first-half loss and sent its shares down 10 per cent.

- Anyone who worries about their personal financial details being stolen should read our piece tomorrow on how HM Revenue & Customs managed to lose a CD containing crucial data on clients of UBS Laing & Cruickshank. This follows on from our scoop this morning and makes for scary reading.

London shares at midday

FTSE 100 stocks

- Cairn Energy up 92p at £20.06 on good drilling news from its Indian operations
- BP up 6p at 671p on rising oil prices
- Royal Dutch Shell up 19p at £19.35 on rising oil prices
- Whitbread up 2p at 962p on vague break-up speculation

FTSE 250 stocks

- Expro International up 35p at 540p on rising oil prices
- Ashtead Group up 8½p at 145½p on Q1 profits well ahead
- LogicaCMG up 9¼p to 183¼p following rights issue-funded French acquisition
- Electrocomponents down 16p to 244p after it warned on profits, blaming poor UK sales
- Premier Farnell off 5½p at 154¾p in sympathy with Electrocomponents

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