The Week Ahead: BSkyB broadcasts strong growth signals

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The Independent Online

As ever, the focus of BSkyB's quarterly results on Wednesday will be subscriber growth rates at the satellite broadcaster and the signals look quite bullish. Christmas is the group's heaviest selling period and although Sky has told investors to expect more than 100,000 new customers for its second quarter City analysts predict this number to be well north of 150,000.

As ever, the focus of BSkyB's quarterly results on Wednesday will be subscriber growth rates at the satellite broadcaster and the signals look quite bullish. Christmas is the group's heaviest selling period and although Sky has told investors to expect more than 100,000 new customers for its second quarter City analysts predict this number to be well north of 150,000.

"We believe that following press speculation of a positive consumer response to Sky's intensive marketing campaign, the market expectation is for over 150,000 new subscribers and anything less will be a disappointment," says Teather & Greenwood.

Sky certainly went to town with its advertising campaign over the festive season as it battled to win new business. It also broadened its sales channels to include retailers such as Woolworths, Argos and Tesco. But marketing costs money and investors will want to know exactly how much Sky has spent during the second quarter in order to boost its customer base.

Teather & Greenwood expects Sky shares to perform well as long as it comes up with a decent set of figures. Sky was one of the worst performers in the media sector last year, falling some 33 per cent, and the broker does not believe the company will be re- rated by the City any time soon.

TODAY: Results: Full year - IDN Telecom. Interims - Avingtrans; Filtronic; Honeycombe Leisure; Minco; Northern Recruitment; NWF Group; Quadnetics.

TOMORROW: Fund management is such a fast consolidating industry that even the sector giant Amvescap is not immune to being bought out. In fact, on Friday the Square Mile was awash with talk that the French bank Societe Generale is looking to buy the group. Amvescap's management team is bound to be quizzed for their views on the rationalisation of the industry when the group posts its fourth-quarter figures. After having to pay out $450m as settlement for its involvement in the market-timing scandal, many see the group as being in a very vulnerable state.

Results: Full year - Amvescap; Cosalt; Kensington Group; XP Power. Interims - Epic; BOC; Surfcontrol.

WEDNESDAY: Results: Full year - Autonomy; Orca Interactive. Interims - BSkyB; Randgold Resources.

THURSDAY: Shell has outperformed its rival BP since the third quarter owing to the index weighting effect of the merger of Shell Transport and Trading and Royal Dutch. But once this process is complete, the market will again concentrate on company fundamentals. And now that the reserves debacle is behind Shell they seem to be quite strong. Williams de Broe forecasts fourth-quarter net income to have soared to $4.8bn from $2.6bn.

On an altogether different scale, Caffe Nero, the coffee bars operator, is due to post first-half results. They should make pleasant reading for shareholders. A strong rise in both sales and earnings is expected as the company continues to roll out its format across the UK. As of November, Caffe Nero boasted 189 outlets. The company opens a new store every 10 days on average and is well on course to hit the 200-store level by the end of next month.

Caffe Nero's expansion is being supported by some pretty useful industry trends. Not only is the whole UK coffee-shop market continuing to register solid growth but branded chains continue to take market share from independent operators.

It's also boom time at Rio Tinto these days and the mining giant's full-year results will certainly reflect this. Net earnings should soar to $2.3bn from $1.3bn and this impressive trend looks set to continue well into 2005 thanks to the group's exposure to the ever-rising iron ore price.

Results: Full year - Chemring; Rio Tinto; Shell; Smith & Nephew. Interims - Caffe Nero.

FRIDAY: A number of City brokerages have upgraded their forecast ahead of third-quarter results from British Airways. This is because business seems to be picking up for premium airlines while the price of oil, a major cost for the industry, continues to retreat. So in the short-term things look good for BA, which many predict will register a pre-tax profit of £100m for the quarter. But longer-term life may not be so rosy for the airline. It is likely to face growing competition on long-haul routes while the short-haul end of the market remains cut-throat.

Results: Full year - None. Interims - British Airways.

Economics Diary

TODAY: UK - M0 money supply (Jan); Consumer confidence (Jan); CBI Distributive Trades Survey (Jan); Atkinson report into public sector productivity. Eurozone - Business/ consumer confidence (Jan). US - Personal income/spending (Dec); New home sales (Dec); Chicago PMI (Jan).

TOMORROW: UK - Manufacturing PMI (Jan); Consumer credit (Dec); Mortgage lending/approvals (Dec). Eurozone - Manufacturing PMI (Jan); Unemployment (Dec). US - ISM manufacturing index (Jan).

WEDNESDAY: Eurozone - Producer price inflation (Dec). US - Interest rate decision.

THURSDAY: UK - Services PMI (Jan). Eurozone - Services PMI (Jan). ECB Interest rate decision. US - Weekly jobless claims; Non-farm productivity (Q4); Factory orders (Dec); ISM non-manufacturing survey (Jan).

FRIDAY: Japan - Leading indicator (Dec). G7 meeting in London (day 1 of 2). Eurozone - Retail trade (Dec); Inflation (Jan). US - Non farm payrolls (Jan); Unemployment rate (Jan); Michigan consumer sentiment survey (Jan).

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