The week ahead

The City puts on Burberry, dials a Virgin and heads over to B&Q
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The Independent Online

The end-of-May bank holiday may be tantalisingly close, but the City's denizens will have to earn their three-day break. A raft of companies are reporting this week, including some of the Square Mile's most recognisable names.

The end-of-May bank holiday may be tantalisingly close, but the City's denizens will have to earn their three-day break. A raft of companies are reporting this week, including some of the Square Mile's most recognisable names.

In telecoms, investors will hear from Vodafone, Virgin Mobile and Cable & Wireless, while in retail they will be updated by Marks & Spencer, Kingfisher and Argos-owner GUS. Media, leisure, property and various other sectors are also represented.

At Vodafone, led by Arun Sarin, analysts are looking for a robust set of results, with pre-tax profits rising to £10.37bn. Globally, revenue is likely to have slowed in the second half, but the mobile phone giant is still beating the growth rates of local rivals. As usual, however, close attention will be paid to its performance in Japan - a key market but one that Vodafone has struggled to nail down.

At Virgin Mobile, which listed in London just under a year ago, consensus forecasts are for pre-tax profits of around £83m before one-off costs. Shares in the group took a battering earlier this year when it revealed sales growth had slowed in the final quarter, beyond analyst expectations. So the City will want reassurance that demand is stabilising.

Cable & Wireless, meanwhile, may have some good news about its dividend. A recent note from Barclays Stockbrokers argued that the group had the ability to pay out more than the consensus expectation of 3.1p for the full year, and so could spring a pleasant surprise.

Elsewhere, and following recent gloomy comments from Dixons boss John Clare, an update from rival Kesa Electricals will be anxiously awaited. The focus will be on underlying sales and gross margins at Comet and its French chains, Darty and BUT, in April and May.

B&Q-owner Kingfisher is another company that has suffered from slowing consumer spending, and has already warned on profits this year. So, as with Kesa - and all the retailers this week - current trading will be the issue. Speculation that US giant Home Depot is eyeing up the group as a potential bid target should be another area of interest.

Consumer spending has been unkind to GUS too, but its credit-checking business, Experian, provides a buffer and final pre-tax profits for the group are likely to have grown from £826m to £926m. GUS also recently announced the disposal of its remaining stake in South African furniture retailer Lewis, for 1.68m rand (£141m). Yet despite all this, it is Argos's performance that will probably grab the headlines.

Burberry, which was spun out of GUS, should have better news. At its fourth-quarter update, it said sales growth was slowing - but that full-year profits would be in line with forecasts.

Supermarket chain Wm Morrison, meanwhile, will address shareholders at its annual general meeting. A third profit warning angered the City earlier this month, and its corporate governance standards remain under scrutiny. However, the chain scored a victory last week when the National Association of Pension Funds backed down on a recommendation to vote against chairman Sir Ken Morrison's re-election. The company is also expected to announce further non-executive appointments at the AGM.

Others holding AGMs include GlaxoSmithKline, Rentokil Initial and Premier Foods, it of the Sudan 1 contamination scare.

Media investors will also have a busy week, with results from music giant EMI, magazine publisher Emap and newspaper group Daily Mail & General Trust.

The financial sector is represented with results from Man, the largest hedge fund group in the world, and appropriately, with summer coming, InterContinental Hotels (IHG) and easyJet are updating the City.

The no-frills carrier publishes interim numbers which include seasonally weak periods but also the early Easter. Revenue per passenger is likely to be up around 1 per cent. IHG, meanwhile, posts its first set of results under the new accounting standard, and analysts are hoping for a modest benefit to earnings as a result.

Deal news is also a feature of the week. British Land, which publishes final results, is likely to be quizzed about Pillar Property. The retail park operator announced last week that it was in takeover talks - widely accepted to be with British Land - that could value it at around £764m.

And while Allied Domecq and Constellation Brands continue to discuss the latter's approach for the UK drinks giant, the circular detailing an earlier recommended offer from French group Pernod-Ricard will go out to investors this week.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 23

UK: Results: (final) Alterian, BSS, Detica, London Merchant Securities, Mitie, Thus; (interim) Care UK, Dawson Holdings, fountains, GET, ITE, Theratase, York Pharma; (3Q) Dicom.

Tuesday 24

UK: Results: (F) Burberry, Celsis International, Cranswick, Emap, EMI, Genus, Great Portland Estates, Homeserve, Icap, Kingston Communications, Marks & Spencer, Scottish Power, SSL International, Telford Homes, Vodafone; (I) Abacus, easyJet, Shaftesbury, Topps Tiles.

Wednesday 25

UK: Results: (F) British Land, De La Rue, Electrocomponents, GUS, Imagination Technologies Group, Luminar, Maelor; (I) Paragon.

Thursday 26

UK: Results: (F) Babcock International, Bristol Water, BTG, Cable & Wireless, Chloride, Comino, Man Group, NWD Group, Pennon Group, Pilkington, Sondex, Sutton Harbour Holdings, Young & Co's Brewery; (first quarter) InterContinental Hotels, Kingfisher.

Friday 27

UK: Results: (F) Caffyns, Healthcare Enterprise Group; (I) Arla Foods UK.

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