The Week Ahead: Analysts seek signs that M&B can weather the coming chill

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The Pubs giant Mitchells & Butlers will report its maiden full-year results as a standalone entity on Thursday following its demerger from Six Continents this year. Investor attention will be on M&B's top line for signs that the group's managed pubs estate can break its disappointing run of underachievement relative to its peers.

The extension of the past summer by a couple months will certainly have given sales a boost. However, this leaves investors and City analysts to decide whether any growth in sales was the result of management action or just the unseasonably hot weather. According to Deutsche Bank, we need a good dose of rain and snow to properly gauge the success of M&B's focus on top line growth. In terms of the bare financials, the market is expecting a pre-tax profit of £193m from sales of £1.5bn.


TODAY: The most important part of BTG's interim results statement will be its comments on the future of its revolutionary Varisolve treatment for varicose veins. Last month it was plunged into doubt after the US Food and Drug Administration halted trials of the product.

Results: Full year ­ Dawson Holdings; Richmond Foods. Interims ­ Acal; Belhaven; BTG; Christian Salvesen.

TOMORROW: Along with first-half numbers from Alba, investors will be eagerly awaiting comments from the consumer electronics group on the state of trading before the all-important Christmas season.

Investec Securities is bullish on Alba. In a recent note to clients, the South African broker said: "The indications during autumn in terms of listings and shelf space all point to another bumper Christmas for DVD and other audio-visual product sales. Earnings upgrades are plausible providing the festive season shapes up as expected."

A pre-tax profit of about £7.2m is likely on sales of £210m. The past 12 to 18 months have been something of a purple patch for Alba, but the company does face risks, the biggest being a slowdown in consumer spending.

Shareholders in Sage can expect a full-year pre-tax profit of £150m from the software group, up from £135m a year earlier, and probably the same cautious optimism about the outlook that management expressed this time last year.

As with Mitchells & Butlers, the great summer we enjoyed in Western Europe will have given first-half earnings at Scottish & Newcastle a boost. But despite this leg-up, S&N's interim profits are likely to fall by about 4 per cent to £295m because of a rise in pension charges.

On the strategic front, S&N is likely to update the market on plans for its international brewing division. Analysts reckon S&N may be interested in buying out Foster's from its Australian parent.

Results: Full year ­ Aberdeen Asset Management; Compass; Gooch & Housego; Landround; Sage; Shaftesbury; Synstar; Ultraframe. Interims ­ Alba; WS Atkins; Goldshield Group; Protherics; Scottish & Newcastle; Warner Estate.


WEDNESDAY: ScS Upholstery has a lot of explaining to do when it unveils its full-year numbers. Last week it issued its second profit warning in as many months, blaming weak profit margins for the latest setback. ScS has launched an investigation and promised a definitive answer to accompany its figures. Full-year pre-tax profit at the group looks set to fall to £8m from £9.8m last year.

Results: Full year ­ De Vere Group; ScS Upholstery; Macdonald Hotels. Interims ­ Chapelthorpe; Expro International; Reliance Security; RPC Group; United Utilities.


THURSDAY: Reed Elsevier's trading statement will provide the perfect opportunity for the company to answer questions about the challenge posed to its scientific journals business from a US not-for-profit organisation which aims to make the world's scientific and medical literature available free via the web. Analysts say the scheme could pose a major threat to Reed's science publishing unit.

Results: Full year ­ Avon Rubber; Deltron Electronics; Dewhurst; Holidaybreak; Mitchells & Butlers; OMG; Premier Farnell; Securicor. Interims ­ Xansa; AEA Technology; AWG; Dyson Group; Findel; Kelda; Universal Salvage. Trading statements ­ Reed Elsevier


FRIDAY: Results: Full year ­ Eldridge Pope. Interims ­ Berkeley Group; Park Group.


TODAY: UK ­ M0 money supply (Nov), consumer credit/mortgage lending (Oct), manufacturing PMI (Nov). EU/US ­ WTO Dispute Settlement Body meets. Euroland ­ manufacturing PMI (Nov), ECB President Trichet testifies to parliament. US ­ ISM index (Nov), construction spending (Oct).

TOMORROW: Chancellor Gordon Brown to deliver address at CBI Awards. Euroland ­ unemployment (Oct), producer price inflation (Oct). France ­ Insée consumer confidence (Nov). Canada ­ interest rate decision. Australia ­ interest rate decision.

WEDNESDAY: UK ­ services PMI (Nov), CBI Distributive Trades Survey (Nov). Euroland ­ services PMI (Nov), GDP (1st revision) Q3. US ­ non-farm productivity (final) Q3, non-manufacturing ISM index (Nov).

THURSDAY: UK ­ interest rate decision. Opec meeting in Vienna. Euroland ­ retail trade (Sep). ECB interest rate decision. Germany ­ unemployment (Nov), factory orders (Oct). US ­ weekly jobless claims.

FRIDAY: Germany ­ industrial production (Oct). Sweden ­ interest rate decision. US ­ non-farm payrolls (Nov), unemployment rate (Nov), factory orders (Oct).