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Weekly news wrap: Standard Chartered & HSBC results, BAE Systems Saab disposal

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Hochschild Mining (LSE: HOC) has sold its 36.9% holding in Zincore Metals (TSX: ZNC) for C$10.3m in cash. The company received the 38.1m Zincore shares as a result of its purchase of Southwestern Resources Corp in May 2009.  Hochschild said the holding did not constitute a core asset for the company, and it disposed of the stake accordingly.

BAE Systems (LSE: BA) has agreed to sell half of its 20.5% stake in defence group Saab AB to Investor AB and will look to dispose of the remaining in 10.25% in due course.

In its full-year results statement, advertising and media communications group WPP (LSE: WPP) said that 2009 was ‘a brutal year’. In the twelve months ended 31 December 2009, Like-for-like revenue fell by more than 8% from a year earlier and at £812m, headline pre-tax profit was down 16.1% compared to £968m in the previous year. WPP’s diluted headline earnings per share was down 20%, at 44.4p.

International media firm United Business Media (LSE: UBM) has expanded its trade-show and conference operations with the acquisition of a 70% stake in the Sign China tradeshow for up to US$14.6m and the E Commerce Expo in London for an initial £0.6m.

Petrofac (LSE: PFC) intends to demerge its UK Continental Shelf assets from its Energy Developments unit, and combine them with Lundin Petroleum’s (OMX: LUPE) UK Continental Shelf oil and gas assets, to form a new company called EnQuest.

Babcock International (LSE: BAB) and VT Group (LSE: VTG) are in discussion regarding a possible merger creating a large engineering services group, dubbed by some reports as a ‘Powerhouse’ or ‘BAE Rival’.  In a brief statement the companies confirmed that a mutual information exchange was agreed, however there can be no certainty the any agreement or final offer for VT will be made.

ITV (LSE: ITV) has broadly maintained earnings and reduced debt in the full-year to end-December 2009, despite a declining television advertising market, with the broadcaster’s group revenues falling 7% from a year earlier to £1.8bn. Cost-cutting enabled ITV to bank a £25m pretax profit, reflecting a return to profits following 2008's £2.7bn loss.

For the year ended 31 December 2009, Standard Chartered (LSE: STAN) reported pretax profits of US$5.1bn, up 13% compared to US$4.5bn the previous year. Earnings per share grew 2.8% during the period, to 179.8 cents. The Asia focused banking group recommended a final dividend of 44.80 cents per share, taking the annual dividend to 66.03 cents per share, a 7.2% increase from 2008.

In its preliminary results report for the year ended 27 December 2009, the Restaurant Group (LSE: RTN) increased revenue by 5% to £435m, while adjusted earnings increased 3% to £80m and adjusted pre-tax profit was £50m, up 2% from £48.9m in 2008.

In February 2010, British Airways’ (LSE: BAY) passenger air-traffic and capacity improved on a year-on-year basis. Passenger traffic numbers improved by 1.1% in Revenue Passenger Kilometres, and Available Seat Kilometres were reduced by 1.9%. The comparative passenger load factor increased by 2.2 percentage points compared to last year, to 74.2%.

Renovo Group (LSE: RNVO) and Shire Pharmaceuticals (LSE:SHP) have amended a licensing agreement originally signed in 2007 to Juvista, a drug which reduces scarring by enhancing tissue regeneration.

Chile's largest insurer, Royal & SunAlliance Seguros Chile, a subsidiary of the RSA Insurance Group (LSE: RSA), told investors that the weekend's earthquake, which measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, will cost the company an estimated 30m in claims.

Aerospace and defence group Meggitt (LSE: MGGT) was hit by the economic downturn in the year ended 31 December 2009, reporting a 1% fall in revenues to 1.15bn while pre-tax profit dropped 4% to 234m compared to 243m in 2008. At 25.3p, earnings per share (EPS) was 5% lower than the previous year.

Mexico City-headquartered precious metals miner and FTSE 100 constituent Fresnillo (LSE: FRES) reported record attributable silver production of 37.9 Moz (million ounces) for the year to end-December 2009, which marked a 9% improvement over the previous year, while gold production rose 5% to 276,584 oz, helping the full year revenues to a 18% increase to US$860 million.

Set-top box developer and FTSE 250 constituent Pace (LSE: PIC) has agreed to acquire Paris-based IP and cable gateways specialist Bewan Systems SA for up to €12.5 million, depending on the achievement of earn-out targets.

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