The week ahead: AirTanker gets £13bn nod from the MoD

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February comes to a close with a bang this week. Along with a bevy of results, tomorrow sees news of a major £13bn deal involving some of Europe's biggest defence companies.

February comes to a close with a bang this week. Along with a bevy of results, tomorrow sees news of a major £13bn deal involving some of Europe's biggest defence companies.

Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon will announce that the AirTanker consortium is the preferred bidder to build and operate around 15 A-330s, which will be used as refuelling tankers for the RAF. The consortium is headed by Franco-German giant EADS, and includes Rolls-Royce, Cobham, VT Group and Thales.

AirTanker will now open discussions with commercial airlines - including BA and Virgin Atlantic - about leasing the aircraft for the periods when they are not needed by the military.

On to corporate results, and the bank's full-year reporting season draws to a close with numbers from HBOS, HSBC and Lloyds TSB. The merged Halifax and Bank of Scotland gave, in line with its rivals, a detailed trading update pre-close. There should be few surprises at the results, where one of the main focuses will be the strength of the UK mortgage market.

Domestic lending will also be an area of interest over at Lloyds TSB, while at HSBC, attention will be turned stateside, for news on the bank's US consumer finance business Household, and East, to one of the group's biggest markets. Analysts are hoping for good news from China, where HSBC's reputation should have given it a significant head start.

Sticking with the financial sector, and Arriva and Prudential both issue results. The latter is set to disappoint investors - again - with no news on the sale of its majority stake in online bank Egg. But the insurer is likely to have some good news on its UK performance. Last year's £1bn rights issue is being used to improve market share, and the group is expected to show progress is being made. In particular, the Pru is understood to have moved up from seventh to second in the pensions market.

Another heavyweight addressing the market is British American Tobacco, where final pre-tax profits are expected to nudge ahead to £2.59bn from £2.57bn. The litigation risk in the US has eased but is now on the increase in Canada. Other key areas include the impact of excise taxes in Malaysia and Korea.

Smaller rival Gallaher, meanwhile, should see full-year profits increase by around 5 per cent, to £525m, helped by price rises in the UK and a relatively strong performance in Russia. Dark spots are likely to include weakening volumes in Germany and Austria, and the impact of the Irish smoking ban.

Continuing the recent run of media results will be Trinity Mirror and Pearson, the owner of the Financial Times. The results should be fairly straightforward. Analysts will want guidance for the rest of this year and into 2006, as well as news on management plans to strengthen its under-performing Penguin book division. The FT is due to return a profit this year, so that too will be of interest.

Over at Trinity Mirror, the owner of the Daily Mirror has already reported that regional advertising has slowed and growth at its national titles remains low. At these final results, investors will want to hear more on chief executive Sly Bailey's cost-cutting programme and news on cash generation.

Elsewhere, and Shire Pharmaceuticals posts full-year results. It should show how price increases in its best-selling hyperactivity treatment Adderall XR has boosted profits, while analysts will want to hear about how kidney disease drug Fosrenol is faring. Pre-tax profits are expected to grow to $451m (£235m) from $427m.

Other companies worth keeping an eye on include bookies William Hill, hotels and restaurant group Whitbread, British Airways - which posts February traffic figures - and mining group Xstrata, where investors will be after news on the possible acquisition of rival WMC Resources. Primark owner AB Foods updates on trading, and here attention will focus on its acquisition of six Allders stores.

One group guaranteed to fill news pages is Premier Foods. Only a few weeks ago, and results from the FTSE 250 stock would have caused few ripples. But coming two weeks after the Sudan 1 scare broke, the figures should ensure Premier gets another spell in the spotlight.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 28

UK: Results: (final) British Polythene Industries, Bunzl, Datamonitor, Domino's Pizza UK & Ireland, Faroe Petroleum, Hammerson, HSBC, Inchcape, Jardine Lloyd Thompson, Old Mutual, Pearson, Persimmon, Robert Walters, Statpro, Systems Union, Tarsus, The Hotgroup.

Tuesday 1

UK: Results:

(F) Ben Bailey, Bisichi Mining, Bodycote International, Brit Insurance Holdings, BAT, CNG, Dechra Pharmaceuticals, Dmatek, Genetix, KBC Advanced Technologies, Raymarine, Retail Decisions, Schroders, Serco, Staffline, Taylor Woodrow; (interim) Hays, Provalis, Ultimate Finance, White Young Green.

Wednesday 2

UK: Results: (F) Brammer, Communisis, Devro, Evolutec, Gallaher, HBOS, Ideal Shopping Direct, LogicaCMG, Meggitt, Premier Foods, Prudential, Rotork, Savills, Shire Pharmaceuticals, William Hill, Wilson Bowden, Xstrata; (I) Polaron, Town Centre Securities.

Thursday 3

UK: Results: (F) Aggreko, Arriva, Axon, Dignity, Hunting, Senior, SHL, Trinity Mirror, UK Coal, Xenova Group, Yule Catto; (I) Quayle Munro.

Friday 4

UK: Results: (F) Exel, Flomerics, Lloyds TSB, Stanley Gibbons, Wellington Underwriting; (I) JD Wetherspoon.

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