The Week Ahead: Baugur's UK expansion halted as boss faces 40 court charges

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The Independent Online

Along with five other executives, Mr Johannesson faces 40 charges in a Reykjavik court, including some that relate to the failed deal to buy Arcadia.

More will be revealed on Wednesday, when the charges, which follow a three-year police investigation, will be officially filed. But already there has been UK fallout.

Baugur, whose UK investments include the supermarket chain Iceland as well as Booker, the cash-and-carry business, has put a temporary halt to its UK expansion.

Baugur pulled out of a joint bid for supermarket chain Somerfield last month, and Mr Johannesson has said he will not make any big bids until his name is cleared.

While the legal proceedings against Mr Johannesson are bad news for Baugur, the general mood in the City has been buoyant, with the FTSE 100 recently hitting four-year highs.

The release tomorrow of the interim results for recruitment group Michael Page will provide a glimpse into the City employment outlook. The results are expected to be good after the group informed the market in early July that it expected to beat full-year forecasts.

Michael Page has been performing better than its competitors, which analysts say is due to its greater exposure to supplying permanent positions for the finance and accounting sectors. But there are some concerns: the UK recruitment market, which represents half the group's profits, is slowing.

Another guide to the health of the finance sector will be the release of the results of London-based fund manager Schroders. In May, its first-quarter results were much better than expected due to higher revenue from asset management and net fund flows. While Schroders and Michael Page will shed some light on the finance sector, a batch of economic releases will provide a guide to the economy's overall health.

Market watchers will pore over the minutes from the recent meeting of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, which decided to cut interest rates by 0.25 per cent. Most attention will be on the breakdown of the committee's vote, with Investec Securities expecting a unanimous decision.

Also of interest will be the release on Wednesday of labour market statistics. These are likely to be mixed. Economists are forecasting that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits is to rise by 10,000 in July. In the first half of 2005, that number increased by 40,000.

A further guide to the economy's health will be the release of another batch of retail sales data, this time from the Office of National Statistics, which are expected to show a fall from the previous month.

While retailers have struggled of late in the UK, US conditions remain strong. Market giant Gap releases its second-quarter results on Thursday while Home Depot, which is seen as a likely bidder for Kingfisher, reports its quarterly results on Tuesday.

In Europe, Swiss food producer Nestlé releases its first- half results on Wednesday, and is expected to receive a boost from its North American, African and Asian operations, while Europe is likely to be sluggish, analysts say.

While no major food producers are reporting in the UK, other companies will provide a guide to conditions in the manufacturing, construction and engineering sectors.

Among them is the Glasgow-based pump manufacturer Weir. The results for Weir, which recently sold its desalination and water treatment businesses for £27m, are likely to be affected by the restructuring of its Huddersfield and Glasgow operations.

The company responsible for the upgrade and maintenance of two-thirds of the London Underground system, Balfour Beatty, releases its interim results on Wednesday. There will be interest in the company's plans for the London Olympics in 2012 after its shares jumped in early July on speculation that it would be a winner out of any deals.

Another company which could benefit from the Olympics is electrical contractor T Clarke, which is also releasing its interim results. Analysts are interested in any signs that it will tender for contracts.

The market will also be looking for some good news from property developer Rok Property. Its shares slid in July after a trading statement warned of a slower first quarter. Rok also recently revealed a former director was suing it.

Another company to report will be BPP, which provides training and education services. It is likely to benefit from solid market conditions.


Tomorrow 15

UK: Results: (interim) Michael Page, Raymarine.

Tuesday 16

UK: Results: (I) Schroders, BPP Holdings, Headlam Group, ROK Property.

Wednesday 17

UK: Results: (I) Balfour Beatty.

Thursday 18

UK: Results: (I) Weir.

Friday 19

UK: Results: (I) Panmure Gordon, T Clarke.