The August reporting season has hit warp speed, with more than 50 companies trotting out either full or half year results.

Woolworths delivered the biggest profit of $1.5 billion after bouncing back from last year’s heavy loss.

Despite on-going problems with Big W and disappointing underlying earnings, investors liked the cash generation and dividend, bidding the stock up.

While the ASX started positively, the weight of disappointing results saw the market roll over to be down 0.4 per cent at 1:00pm (AEST).

“The local market is taking a very bipolar view towards earnings results, with very few success stories so far this season,” ASR Wealth Advisers’ Gary Huxtable said.

“While many investors would have been hoping for reporting season to provide the catalyst to break out of our three-month trading range, this hasn’t eventuated, and earnings announcements continue to have a relatively muted result on the overall index,” Mr Huxtable noted.

IAG shares tumble

Big general insurer IAG reported its full-year net profit was up almost 50 per cent to $929 million.

However, it was driven largely by investment income, with revenues falling 1.6 per cent to $16.5 billion.

Insurance profit was up 8 per cent, while the all important insurance margin narrowed more than expected.

The full-year dividend was held flat at 33 cents per share.

Investors bailed on the result with shares falling 7 per cent to $6.29 at 1pm (AEST).

Worley Parsons running out gas, while APA isn’t

With the big construction boom in gas all but done, these are not the best of times for Worley Parsons.

The global designer and contractor of oil and gas plants reported a narrow $35 million profit on revenues of $5.2 billion.

Overall net profit edged up, but underlying profit was down 13 per cent. It could have been worse; revenues were down 33 per cent.

At the other end of the gas pipeline, so to speak, APA enjoyed a 32 per cent rise in profit to $237 million.

The pipeline owner and operator’s revenues were up by 14 per cent to $1.9 billion.

APA pumped upped its full-year distribution by 5 per cent to 43.5 cents.

Investors gave Worley Parson the benefit of the doubt, with its shares up 2.7 per cent at 1pm (AEST), while APA was pretty steady, up just 0.2 per cent.

Healthscope falls out of bed

Private hospital operator Healthscope posted one of the bigger misses of the day.

Net profit fell almost 40 per cent to $110 million, although that was flagged with the announcement last week of a $55 million impairment taken on the sale of its medical centres.

Underlying profit was down 6 per cent to $180 million.

The recently appointed chief executive and former boss of Telstra’s retail division Gordon Ballantyne said there were a number of challenges facing Healthscope’s most important business in private hospitals.

“This reflected softer private hospital market conditions and variability in patient case mix, combined with margin pressure, where costs have increased greater than health fund price increases in some areas of the business,” Mr Ballantyne said.

Investors were not sympathetic, sending shares tumbling almost 15 per cent to $1.88 by 1:00pm (AEST) — the biggest fall on the ASX 200.

Vocus deeply in the red after buying spree

The acquisitive telco, now turned takeover target, Vocus chalked up the biggest loss of the day — an eye-watering $1.5 billion.

The number lacked some shock value given it had announced impairment charges of around the same size last week on the goodwill of a number of companies it had picked up recently.

Underlying profit was healthier, up 50 per cent to $152 million.

Shares were up 4 per cent to $2.72 at 1:00pm (AEST) — although this is still well short of the $3.50 offers from competing private equity firms, indicating the market does not have a lot of faith a deal will go through.

August 23, 2017