The week ahead: As clocks go back, BP's hour has come

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The Independent Online

Refreshed after an extra hour in bed, the UK market will be ready for more action as the reporting season enters its second week.

Expect good results from BP, where high oil prices have boosted profits. Investors will be looking for evidence that its Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, can drive future production growth.

Reuters, the information provider, is likely to issue a cautious trading statement despite the recovery in financial markets. The company is expected to stick with its forecast of an 11 per cent decline in revenues, but don't expect any guidance for 2004. A similar note of caution is expected from WPP, the advertising group.

It is too early to tell how Abbey National is faring without the National part of its former brand name, but investors will want to hear about the stability of the housing market in the face of an imminent interest rate hike.

Whitbread, which operates Marriott hotels and David Lloyd fitness clubs, is expected to announce solid results. The leisure group is thought to be interested in buying Premier Lodge, the budget hotel chain now owned by Spirit, which bought Scottish & Newcastle's £2.5bn pub estate. Premier Lodge is estimated to be worth more than £350m and will complement Whitbread's Travel Inn, but there will be stiff competition from Permira, the venture capital firm, which bought Travelodge last year. The market will also want to know how the company's search for a new chief executive is going.

Progress at BAT, owner of Kent and Dunhill cigarettes, is expected to be modest. Although US profits will continue to suffer from price cutting, this will be offset by strong growth in emerging markets. The company has been criticised for the €2.3bn (£1.6bn) purchase of Italy's ETI, but will be keen to prove that the high price was justified.

Results from ICI, the maker of Dulux paints, are likely to be poor. Attention will be on new chief executive, John McAdam, who is expected to announce the outcome of his strategic review. With an economic recovery unlikely to bail it out, the company needs to sell businesses and cut dividends to reduce its debt; we'll see if he has the courage to do so.

BHP Billiton, the Anglo-Australian mining company, is expected to deliver good growth driven by buoyant production and high commodity prices, but investors are concerned that the strong Australian dollar will erode gains.

There will be trading updates from Safeway, the supermarket chain, and Amersham, the healthcare group, but the market's interest will be in their bid situations. Safeway is waiting for an offer from Wm Morrison; Amersham is being taken over by GE, the US industrial giant.

Word is that directors of Canary Wharf, the developer of London's Docklands, have set a deadline for its bidders to come up with a decent offer. A group backed by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and Canada's Branscan, are thought to have until the middle of the week to revise their bids.

A US interest rate decision is due on Tuesday; the Federal Reserve is expected to keep rates unchanged at 1 per cent. However, investors will be nervous after the marginal decision in the UK. David Page of Investec said: "Despite the likelihood of the US economy expanding at a robust pace from Q3 2003, we do not expect to see the Fed hike rates until the end of next year, after the presidential election in November 2004."

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