The Week Ahead: BA at loggerheads as the City checks in for half-time results

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It's going to be a rough week for Willie Walsh. The chief executive of British Airways will be facing a host of questions from investors on Friday when the airline unveils interim results. And chief among these concerns could well be the threatened strike by cabin crew workers that has already caused BA to cancel all flights from Gatwick and Heathrow on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Analysts predict BA could lose at least £50m because of the action by the Transport and General Workers' Union. And that amount could balloon if customers angered by the inconvenience choose to use rival airlines in the future.

Writing last week in the BA employee newsletter, Mr Walsh told staff that "any strike for any period of time remains completely unnecessary and unjustified... I genuinely hope we reach agreement with the T&G. You have my personal commitment that I am willing to talk all day and all night to achieve it."

BA isn't the only icon of British industry facing a time of reckoning. A formal auction between Tata of India and CSN, the Brazilian giant, will kick off on Tuesday for Corus, the former British Steel. The Takeover Panel imposed a formal bidding process after more than three months of tit-for-tat offers from the duelling suitors.

BSkyB, meanwhile, is expected to register a nice uptick in quarterly earnings on Wednesday, fed by an increase of more than 200,000 subscribers to its services. More important, however, will be the findings of the Office of Fair Trading, which publishes its initial findings on whether the stake bought by BSkyB in rival ITV last year was damaging to competition.

AstraZeneca, the UK's number two drugs company after GlaxoSmithKline, is expected to unveil strong annual profit and turnover growth on Thursday, but it will still be dogged by questions about its pipeline of new treatments.

Royal Dutch Shell will be the first to publish fourth-quarter results, also on Thursday. As with AstraZeneca, the headline numbers will be impressive, if a bit off the highs reached earlier in the year. And questions about future oil production will persist.

Mining giant Rio Tinto has interim results on Thursday. In keeping with a bumper year for commodities around the world, analysts are expecting a set of buoyant figures. Once again, the engine behind the company's growth is China.

Andrew Keen, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein, said: "It is our number one pick of the mining sector because it has got the most iron-ore exposure. That's our preferred commodity because the Chinese are consuming vast quantities of it to make steel to feed urban and residential construction."

Randgold Resources, the sub-Saharan Africa gold miner, is also expected to report a surge in earnings when it gives its numbers on Friday. That would be in line with its quarterly results in November when it reported a 23 per cent jump in earnings, which was mainly attributed to an average gold price at its highest since the early 1980s. Randgold Resources also opened a new mine in Mali, which contributed another slug to profits.

For Wolfson Microelectronics, the Scottish semiconductor company, the big question at its final numbers on Wednesday will concern the iPhone. Analysts will want to know if the company is one of the suppliers of the latest ultra-cool invention from Apple. They are unlikely, however, to get very far. "There are a number of rumours about who the suppliers are to the iPhone - there will be questions around that. But they are probably tied by confidentiality agreements," warned Robert Sanders, an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort.

With little hope of light being shed on the iPhone, investors are bracing themselves for an uninspiring performance. "We are expecting quite weak guidance," said Mr Sanders, adding that a revelation last week by Microsoft about reduced shipments of its XBox 360 games console would hurt future earnings. He expects Wolfson Micro-electronics to report $47.3m (£24.1m) in pre-tax profit, up from $38.7m in 2005.

GW Pharma, the biotechnology company that is developing a cannabis-based treatment for multiple sclerosis spasticity, presents results on Tuesday.

Like most biotech groups it will report a loss, but investors will be keen for any update on the pro- gress of GW Pharma's efforts to get approval to proceed with phase III trials of the treatment.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 29

UK RESULTS: (final) Amino Technologies, Travelzest; (interim) Filtronic

Tuesday 30

UK RESULTS: (F) Dobbies Garden Centres, GW Pharmaceuticals, Kensington; (I) Surfcontrol, PZ Cussons

Wednesday 31

UK RESULTS: (F), Wolfson Microelectronics; (I) BSkyB, NWF, Angle

Thursday 1

UK RESULTS: (F) Rio Tinto, Royal Dutch Shell, AstraZeneca

Friday 2

UK RESULTS: (F) Randgold Resources; (I) British Airways

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