UK’s biggest 350 firms showing a return to growth

 
Michael Bow
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THE UK’s biggest 350 companies are mirroring the British economy’s nascent return to growth after companies on the index saw a steady rise in annual sales, fresh research out today shows.

According to the latest year-end numbers from FTSE 350 firms that reported in the three months to September 2013, overall revenues are up 1.3 per cent to £100.8bn versus the same period last year.

However, much stronger underlying growth was masked by the influence of mining giant BHP Billiton in the numbers.

Excluding its weak results, FTSE 350 sales rose a robust 8.2 per cent while pre-tax profits rose 2.3 per cent higher to £12.3bn, according to figures published today by The Share Centre.

The burgeoning strength of FTSE 350 balance sheets reflects the return to fortunes for the UK economy, which grew 0.8 per cent in the third quarter this year.

“Brighter economic skies have begun to appear in a whole range of official data, and it seems patches of blue are showing up in UK company results too,” the Centre’s investment research analyst Helal Miah said.

“BHP Billiton’s results cloud the picture, however increasing signs of health in sectors sensitive to the consumer are a very positive development due to that segment’s importance to the overall economy.

BHP reported a 6.9 per cent profit decline in the second half of its year.