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Why Admiral Group plc, Serco Group plc And XAAR plc Should Lag The FTSE 100 Today

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) is actually climbing today, as a number of big-company results have given shares a welcome boost — by late morning it’s up 44 points to 6,474. That’s still 18 points down on the week, mind, and we could be in for the top index’s fourth week of losses in a row. But we must have an up week soon, mustn’t we?

Which shares are holding the FTSE back from further gains today? Here are three from the various indices that are falling:

Admiral

Shares in Admiral Group (LSE: ADM) dropped 42p (3.3%) to 1,248p, after the motor insurer released results for the first half of 2013. They actually looked pretty good, with chief executive Henry Engelhardt saying “Any time you can increase profits by 6% when competitors are cutting prices you’ve got to be happy“. That was pre-tax profit, which climbed to £181.4m, and earnings per share (EPS) rose by a similar 6% to 50.1p. The interim dividend was lifted 8% to 48.9p per share. The only obvious negative was turnover, which fell 7% to £1,089m.

In addition to the financials, Admiral told us it has been named second best large workplace in the UK, and second best in Europe, by the Great Place to Work Institute — and 6,600 employees are to get £1,500 in shares as a result of today’s figures.

Serco Group

The market was less than kind to Serco Group, whose shares crashed 69p (11.2%) to 538p on the day of its first-half results. But the big downer is the news of an investigation into misreporting of data concerning the firm’s prisoner escort contract with the City of London police. Around £2m in profit from the contract so far will be repaid, and Serco will forgo any future profits from it.

The results themselves showed an 11% rise in revenue to £2.1bn, with adjusted pre-tax profit up 11% to £127m. Adjusted EPS gained 13% to 19.69p and the interim dividend got a 17% boost to 3.1p per share.

XAAR

XAAR (LSE: XAR) shareholders probably won’t be too upset about this morning’s 24.5p (2.8%) fall to 845p, seeing as their shares are up around 250% over the past 12 months. Today the inkjet printing technologist revealed an impressive set of first-half results, so the fall is likely just a bit of profit-taking.

With adjusted revenue up 78% to £67.2m and adjusted pre-tax profit more than trebling to £36.5m, it’s understandable that chief executive Phil Lawler was “pleased to report continuing and significant progress“. Diluted EPS more then trebled too, to 23.5p, and the interim dividend was lifted from 1p per share last year to 2.5p.

Finally, you can compensate for the day-to-day ups and downs of share prices by looking for reliable dividends. So how would you like a company that’s offering a 5% yield and which could be set for some nice share-price appreciation, too?

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.