The Week Ahead: BAE beginning to hit all of its targets

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The Independent Online

Last year was a good one for BAE Systems, Britain's premier defence contractor, and it should demonstrate that on Thursday by unveiling the first set of final results in a long time not to be drowning in red ink from one-off charges.

According to Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, the defence and aerospace giant has largelyachieved its top 10 objectives. A welcome return to profit and cash generation has also been seen. The German broker expects pre-tax profits at BAE to rise from £760m to £845m. Looking ahead, BAE faces severalchallenges.

For starters, it will have to decide what it is going to do with its shareholdings in Saab and Airbus. The company has in the past hinted that it would like to reduce its stake in Saab to 20 per cent, but DKW wonders how wedded BAE would be to its holding in Airbus should the right acquisition become available in the US. The only thing which would force a sale of its 20 per cent Airbus stake would be a merger with the rival civil aircraft manufacturer Boeing but that looks less likely these days. Anyway, why would BAE want to dispose of one of its best profit contributors?

TODAY: Annual profits from Millennium & Copthorne are forecast to soar to £51m from £18m, but Williams de Broe is not expecting much of a response from its shares as a result. The broker believesthis recovery is already priced into the company's market value.

Results: Full year - 4imprint; Millennium & Copthorne; Ultra Electronics; WH Ireland. Interims - Ricardo.

TOMORROW: The best part of Wimpey's full-year figures will be the performance of its US businesses. The housebuilder relies on the unit for growth but the operation accounts for just 20 per cent of the overall group. Although Wimpey should achieve a rise in profits, to £447m from £378m, this will not be enough for the company to outperform its peers.

Wolfson Microelectronics has disappointed the City in the past 12 months but its annual results will not: word has it the figures from the semiconductor group are likely to come in at the top end of expectations. Wolfson's share price performance over the past three months supports this theory. Its stock is up by about 40 per cent since December. Investors can expect a 28 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to $16m (£8m) for 2004.

Results: Full year - Bradford & Bingley; CRC Group; Electric Word; Goals Soccer Centers; Media Square; Morgan Crucible; Morgan Sindall; George Wimpey; Wolfson Microelectronics. Interims - Teesland; Sportingbet.

WEDNESDAY: With results from De Beers, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo Platinum already released it appears that Anglo American, which has sizeable holdings in all these companies, is on track to achieve headline earnings of $2.72bn (£1.43bn). This is an impressive rise on the $1.69bn achieved in the previous year and is thanks to the strength in commodity prices.

Evidence that prices for the palletsBrambles Industries produces have risen sharply has been the driving force behind the strong performance of the company's shares. Brambles' European customers have experienced a 21 per cent jump in prices, which is great news for the company's profits margins. As a result, Morgan Stanley raised its earnings forecasts for the group last week and urged investors to pile into the stock. Most in the market forecast the group to reveal a 25 per cent jump in profits to £160m.

Results: Full year - Anglo American; BBA Group; Cadbury Schweppes; Egg; Michael Page; Microgen; Scottish & Newcastle; Urbium. Interims - Workspace; Freeport; Brambles.

THURSDAY: Results: Full year - BAE; Capita; Centrica; Colt Telecom; GKN; Hanson; Hilton Group; Legal & General; MFI Furniture; National Express; Rentokil Initial; Royal Bank of Scotland; Spirent; Wembley. Interims - Galliford Try; Isotron.

FRIDAY: It's D-Day for Rank's chief executive Mike Smith, who has promised to give investors an update on the group's plans for its Deluxe film and media divisions.

The betting among City professionals is that it will unveil plans to demerge the former and sell the latter. Once this is complete, Rank will have to produce convincing arguments as to why bingo halls, Hard Rock Cafés and casinos should be housed under one roof. Most analysts expect further disposals.

Results: Full year - Rank; Alliance & Leicester; WPP; St James's Place Capital. Interims - None expected.

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