The Week Ahead: Babcock takes on Heathrow baggage

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The Independent Online

Did you take a trip over the Easter break? Next time you pass through Heathrow, Babcock International is going to be working very hard not to lose your luggage.

For those of you who still choose to check in your bags, Babcock is now running the baggage-handling operations and maintenance for Heathrow airport and provides ground fleet maintenance to British Airways.

The contract, which it won this year, runs for five years and is worth around £440m. It is one of a number of new wins for the outsourcing specialist.

At the start of this year, Babcock's order book was stable at around £12bn, with new contracts in the pipeline including work from Network Rail and the BBC.

It is due to issue a pre-close trading statement tomorrow and analysts at Peel Hunt predict full-year pre-tax profits of £313m and a raised dividend of 25p.

Babcock is one of only a few corporate updates this week, but a series of economic updates will be closely watched by the City.

Key indicators on mortgage approvals and the Halifax House Price Index will be clues to how the economy is faring: house prices are slowly rising but the rate of mortgage approvals has not witnessed a corresponding boost – last month it was revealed that mortgage approvals for home buyers dipped for the first time since the government scheme to boost lending was launched last year.

The latest data on consumer credit lending will also be revealed, and is likely to show that despite the Government's efforts, lending to people and businesses is not growing.

On Thursday the health group BTG, the anti-venom to cancer drug group, will report its trading update. Last month Investec rated the group a buy with a 390p price target. They think BTG has now "evolved from a pure licensing play into a high-quality, diversified healthcare company with a number of attractive growth opportunities".

They expect its chief executive, Louise Makin, to produce another positive update after the recent good news that it has found a treatment for varicose veins.

From snake-bite antidotes to pizzas, Thursday is also the day for Domino's Pizza to reveal its first-quarter update. It has experienced a bit of a slowdown of late, and Numis Securities forecasts pre-tax profits of £50.5m – some way below long-term historic growth rates. The shares are near an all-time high of 600p, so Numis thinks they look expensive.

The engineering consultancy Amec's trading update may disappoint on Thursday. In February, the shares slumped after its results. Analysts at Canaccord Genuity think they might have fallen too far, but they are concerned about its "tepid" organic growth plan and slower growth against its peer group. They rate the stock a hold with a 1,215p price target for the shares ahead of Thursday's update.

Flying in on Friday is an update from easyJet – its first trading statement since it joined the FTSE 100. Analysts at Numis expect a positive update. They think flights for the ski season were strong and the very poor weather in the UK has provided a "significant boost to recent bookings".

They think the budget airline will issue a confident outlook statement, with a chance that the full-year guidance will be upgraded. Numis has pencilled in a £405m profit figure, and consensus is at £400m.

Results/Updates: Andor Technology, BTG, Amec, Babcock International, Domino's Pizza, easyJet, 21st Century Technology, Eurasia Drilling, Bond International Software.

Economics Diary


Halifax house price index, Purchasing managers' index – construction, Manufacturing purchasing managers' index, Services purchasing managers' index, M4 money supply data, Net lending to individuals, EU unemployment rate, US factory orders.


British Retail Consortium shop price index, Construction PMI purchasing managers' index, Bank of England interest rate announcement and asset purchase target, US non-farm employment change, US crude oil inventories.


Asset purchase facility, Official Bank Rate, Monetary Policy Committee rate statement, European Central Bank press Conference, US unemployment claims.


New car registrations, EU foreign currency reserves, US non-farm employment change, US trade balance, US unemployment rate; Average hourly earnings.