The Week Ahead: All bets are off on PartyGaming as the FTSE spins the wheel

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The Independent Online

On Wednesday the changes to the FTSE 100 will be announced and they will take effect from 19 September. The recently floated PartyGaming will be included, as should Cairn Energy, depending on share price movements in the next few days. Emap and Hays are the two most likely to be excluded.

Shares in companies pro-moted to the FTSE 100 receive a boost because tracker funds and index funds are forced to buy them, while those excluded are sold off.

Investors will get a guide this week to the potential of online gambling business PartyGaming, as it releases its first interim results as a public company.

Analysts expect a strong result, but will be interested in how many new active players it has signed up. It is also rumoured to be ready to challenge SportingBet in the fight for Empire Online, so news will be expected.

Also reporting is William Hill, the UK's second-largest bookmaker, and its results will reveal how traditional gambling businesses are faring. Analysts are expecting trading to have improved after a poor start to the year.

To a different sort of gambling as markets bet on the monthly meeting of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee on Thursday. The most likely outcome is that the MPC will leave interest rates unchanged, despite the uncertainty caused by rises in the price of oil.

Retail investors will be hoping that last month's rate cut has helped spur consumer spending. Among the retailers reporting is Whittard of Chelsea, the tea and coffee seller, which recently warned of weaker-than-expected sales. That poorer performance, say analysts, caused takeover talks for the company to be called off.

Supermarket group Somerfield - which is also hoping to be taken over - will provide a trading update on Friday, with sales likely to come in either slightly down or flat.

It should be a different ball game at the results of Umbro, maker of the England football shirt, with the market hoping its solid performance continues.

In the food industry, most attention will be on Premier Foods, of Sun-Pat peanut butter fame. It has benefited from cost-cutting as well as a recent improvement in sales.

In continental Europe there will be a beer theme, with Dutch giant Heineken releasing its interim results on Wednesday, while Stella Artois owner Inbev reports on Thursday. Also on the Continent, insurance giant Axa will pre-release its earnings on Tuesday, with strong growth expected from its life insurance business.

Back in the UK there is plenty of action in the construction sector, with building supplier Travis Perkins reporting on Monday. It warned in early July that its sales were struggling due to a slowing in the home-renovation market. George Wimpey, the UK's biggest homebuilder, is expected to report poor results on Wednesday after flagging weaker first half earnings in July. Analysts will hope that its US business can lead a recovery.

Taylor Woodrow should fare better. It has been helped by good growth at its US business, which has more than offset declining prices in the UK. Another homebuilder, Wilson Bowden, has suffered as lower demand and lower prices have taken their toll.

The market will also be interested in the fortunes of Europe's largest weapons maker, BAE Systems. Profits are expected to rise threefold, and there is interest from analysts in whether the high oil price could encourage countries such as Saudi Arabia to spend more on weapons.

Also unlikely to attract the ethical investor isGallaher, the UK maker of Silk Cut cigarettes. Profits from its Western European business are tipped to have stayed flat, although profits in the former Soviet Union should have risen strongly.

Meanwhile ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster, is releasing its interim results, and the focus will be on how it is coping with the weakening TV advertising market.

Monthly traffic figures from British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and airport owner BAA will reveal conditions for the air indus- try in the peak summer period.


Tomorrow 5

UK: Results: (interim) Amlin, Bond International, British Polythene, Futura Medical, IMI, Intertek, Leadcom, Lookers, Monstermob, Robert Walters, Stadium Group, Taylor Nelson, Travis Perkins, Vindon Healthcare, William Hill, WSP.

Tuesday 6

UK: Results: (final) Dechra, Hays, Inventive Leisure, Surfcontrol, Voller Energy, Thorntons; (I) Acambis, Aegis, Aricom, Axon, Brammer, Brit Insurance, Deal Group, Dmatek, Erinaceous, Inspace, John Menzies, Lambert Howarth, Lavendon, Macfarlane, Meggitt, Party Gaming, Premier Foods, SHL, Shore Capital, Staffline Recruitment, Taylor Woodrow, Tikit, Wimpey (George).

Wednesday 7

UK: Results: (F) Avingtrans, Mucklow, Sygen, Teesland; (I) Ant, Arena Leisure, Associated British Ports, Augean, BAE Systems, Beazley, Biotrace, Devro, Evolution Group, Gallaher, Gyrus, Imprint, ITV, Netstore, UK Coal, Ukbetting, Umbro, Visonic, Wilson Bowden.

Thursday 8

UK: Results: (F) Galliford; (I) Arriva, Computacenter, FDM, Horizon Technology, NSB Retail Systems, Premier Farnell, SMG, Yule Catto.

Friday 9

UK: Results: (F) DX Services, Go-Ahead Group, Whittard of Chelsea; (I) Aga Foodservice, Intercontinental Hotels, Retail Decisions, Universe Group.