The Week Ahead: After poor figures from B&Q, Kingfisher must do it all itself

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The Independent Online

Apparently, a certain Scottish gentleman will be addressing his fellow MPs this week. Markets will, of course, be paying close attention to what Gordon Brown has to say, not least because most traders will be having the traditional flutter on how many times the Chancellor says "prudent" or sips his water.

Apparently, a certain Scottish gentleman will be addressing his fellow MPs this week. Markets will, of course, be paying close attention to what Gordon Brown has to say, not least because most traders will be having the traditional flutter on how many times the Chancellor says "prudent" or sips his water.

But, in an election year, no one expects anything too shocking from the Budget, so the non-gambling members of the City will be grateful for some corporate news to keep them occupied. In particular, a slew of retail results continues with offerings from DIY chain Kingfisher, department store group House of Fraser and fashion brand Ted Baker. These come at a nervous time for investors in the sector, who have already had to deal with a profits warning from the chemist chain Boots and a report from the British Retail Consortium revealing dire sales across the high street in February.

Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q and sponsor of Ellen Mac- Arthur's record-breaking yacht, has already made waves after revealing last month that recent trading at B&Q had been tough. Group pre-tax profits are expected to rise, from £589m to £672m, primarily as a result of Kingfisher's long-term plans to trim the number of suppliers it deals with and cut costs. The focus, though, will not be on the figures but on management's expectations for the crucial Easter trading period and beyond into the summer. News on the hoped-for improvements at Castorama, its French unit, will also be keenly sought.

Something of a precedent may well have set last week for House of Fraser. Rival John Lewis revealed a slowdown in sales at its department stores, and some analysts believe HoF's like-for-like numbers could have dipped into negative territory after a tough fourth quarter.

But it is not all gloom and some in the City are hoping for better things from HoF this year. In particular, the group's strategy of opening larger stores is now well under way - the tape will be cut in Maidstone in Kent on Thursday - and property deals have helped it to trim debt. The group was also rumoured to be interested in bidding for parts of the collapsed Allders chain, but has since thought to have pulled out. Investors will be looking for clarification.

Other companies also on show include the mining group Antofagasta, steel producer Corus, engineering business Cookson, aerospace outfit Smiths and life and pensions group Friends Provident. There will also be news from Standard Life, which, for the time being at least, remains a mutual. Following a strategic review, the demutualisation was put back on track for 2006, so these results should garner interest across the board.

Corus has been through the mill in recent years, but its restructuring and strong steel prices mean it is forecast to move into the black, with net income of around £56m against last year's £305m loss. Debt levels are thought to be around £1bn. However, there are concerns that the price of steel is not sustainable, meaning margins will come under pressure.

Mainland Europe also has a number of companies reporting, some of which will be of interest to British investors, such as Euronext. The owner of the Amsterdam and Paris stock exchanges, among others, is looking to insert the London market into that list and saw its bidding rival, Deutsche Börse, drop out last week. However, these results are unlikely to make for pretty reading, with analysts expecting a slide in profits after trading revenues fell and Euronext trimmed its stake in the clearing business Clearnet. Talks, though, are still going on with the London Stock Exchange, and these will be the main focus of the presentation.

Another company of interest to domestic analysts is Pernod Ricard. The French drinks group publishes final figures - but its thoughts on the current wave of consolidation, and whether it is interested in Allied Domecq, will be bigger news. And the luxury goods group Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, owner of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, will be scrutinised by those concerned that the consumer is falling out of love with spending.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 14

UK: Results: (final) Abbot, Anker, Bond International Software, Bovis Homes, Entertainment Rights, Greggs, Group 4 Securicor, Headlam, Hiscox, Johnson Service, Parkwood Holdings, Regus, Roxboro, Spiraz-Sacro Engineering; (interim) Centaur Holdings, NeuTec Pharma.

Tuesday 15

UK: Results: (F) Antofagasta, Beazley, Coliseum, Computacenter, Cookson, Deltex Medical, Imprint Search and Selection, iTouch, John Menzies, Laird, Litho Supplies, Office2office, Public Recruitment, Shore Capital, Spectris, Tikit, Trafficmaster, Wyevale Garden Centre, Xaar; (I) Interior Services; (third quarter) Ashtead.

Wednesday 16

UK: Results: (F) Advanced Medical Solutions, Alea Group Holdings, BPP Holdings, Chorion, Costain, Gyrus, Huntleigh Technology, Johnston Press, Provident Financial, Television Corp, Unite, Visonic; (I) Ascribe, Smiths.

Thursday 17

UK: Results: (F) Alfred McAlpine, Armor Group International, BATM Advanced Communications, Biocompatibles International, CODASciSys, Corus, F&C Asset Management, House of Fraser, Kingfisher, Paladin Resources, Premier Farnell, Psion, Ted Baker; (I) FW Thorpe.

Friday 18

UK: Results: (F) Aga Foodservice, Cattles, Chaucer Holdings, Collins Stewart Tullett, Crosby Capital Partners, Friends Provident, PFI Infrastructure Co, Pittards, RAB Capital.

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