Profits at oil and gas company BG Group declined in the first quarter despite higher revenues, as lower production volumes and higher costs ate into the bottom line.
The company, which earlier in the week announced the resignation of Chief Executive Chris Finlayson and warned that 2014 output would be at the lower end of guidance owing to issues in Egypt, said that total operating profits during the first three months of the year were down 6% at $2.01bn.
This reflected reductions in both the Upstream and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Shipping & Marketing segments.
In Upstream, higher revenues were more than offset by higher operating costs. Meanwhile in LNG Shipping & Marketing, better LNG margins were outweighed by a lower number of deliveries, with no BG Group cargoes from Egyptian LNG.
So-called 'Business Performance' earnings per share (EPS), which exclude disposals and other items, were down 3% at 33.8 cents. Reported EPS fell 9% to 32.4 cents.
Group revenue and other operating income increased by 3% to $5.06bn, helped by a significant increase in Upstream oil volumes, particularly from Brazil, despite lower exploration and production (E&P) volumes and LNG cargo deliveries.
Total E&P production volumes were broadly unchanged on the fourth quarter at 633,000 barrels of oil equivalents a day (boed), but were down 4% over the year.
BG Group said on April 28th that Finlayson would leave the company immediately "for personal reasons" and Non-Executive Chairman Andrew Gould would take over as interim Executive Chairman until a replacement is found.
In a statement on Thursday, Gould said that the company "continued to make good progress" in the first quarter with its key growth projects in Australia and Brazil.
He said: "Group production volumes for the first quarter were consistent with our anticipated seasonal phasing, although production entitlement from Egypt was lower than expected as domestic offtake remains well above contractual commitments and reservoir performance deteriorates. As a result of the challenges in Egypt, the group's 2014 production is now expected to be at the lower end of the guidance range."
Nevertheless, the company's guidance range for this year remains unchanged at 590,000 to 630,000 boed.
BG Group said that the "deterioration in Egypt" will have a similar impact on 2015 production, though guidance for next year will not be given until its full-year results next February.
Insurance group Lancashire Holdings saw a strong increase in gross premiums written in the first quarter and reported an absence of major losses, but profits slipped year-on-year.
Nevertheless, the company said that, barring any change in trading conditions, it will return a "substantial portion" of profits to shareholders later this year.
Gross premiums written during the first three months of 2014 totalled $316.7m, up from $214.9m the year before.
The combined ratio, a measure of profitability used by insurers that compares premiums with losses, worsened to 66.4% from 51.2% the year before but was significantly better than the 70% level in the fourth quarter of 2013 which was affected by a late reported energy claim. The consensus forecast was for a worse combined ratio of 71.3%.
However, profit before tax weakened to $57.4m, from $78.9m in the first quarter the year before, below analysts' estimates for $60m. Operating expenses increased by $10m over the year to $27m.
"We will continue to monitor market developments over the rest of the year but, with no indication of any change in trading conditions, it is likely that we will return a substantial portion of our earnings later in the year," said Chief Financial Officer Elaine Whelan.
A strong early performance in the US helped online clothing retailer N Brown post a year of record profits, with new Chief Executive Angela Spindler confident of reaching double-digit sales growth in 2016.
The FTSE 250 company, which specialises in plus-sized and middle-aged fashion, generated a profit before tax and fair value adjustments up 5.3% to £100.1m as sales climbed 6.4% to £834.9m. Adjusted earnings per share declined 1.4% to 27.9p, incorporating a higher tax charge as previously guided by management.
First-half growth of 8% slowed to 4.9% through the second as some sales were foregone due to a tightening of its credit policy and a pausing of expansion in the third quarter in the US.
A lot had been achieved in the year while the group entered a period of transition under Spindler, who was appointed last July.
N Brown is investing in the further development of its multi-channel offer, increasing customer recruitment, revitalising major brands and driving international expansion for future growth and is still planning to step up the pace of change in the business.
Spindler was encouraged by the results of the early changes but alluded to an even "more ambitious future".
She was particularly encouraged by the strong performances from its 'younger' brands, focused on ages 30-plus, primarily driven by Simply Be and Jacamo, which were the biggest drivers of growth in absolute terms as they begun a store roll-out to complement their online strength.
"Going forward the benefits of our strategic initiatives will start to come through as we look to achieve a double-digit rate of sales growth during the financial year ending February 2016," she said.
"I am even more convinced that we have a great platform and you'll see us build on that strong base at an even faster pace as the implementation of our plan gathers momentum."
Follow the update, broker Shore Capital held its 2016 forecasts but downgraded its 2015 forecasts, reflecting the lower base of earnings, an anticipated £1m cost and trading losses associated with a flagship store on Oxford Street in London that is due to open in September, plus around £1m of annual double running costs as management has now chosen to maintain investment in existing websites through the period of the infrastructure improvement programme.
It said this was "still early days" in an "exciting" medium term growth story in light of Spindler's pledge of double-digit growth.