The Week Ahead: City ready to toast Whitbread's good fortune

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The Independent Online

Alan Parker formally takes over as chief executive of Whitbread at tomorrow's annual meeting and the trading update to be issued by the group to coincide with the start of his reign will show that the former head of the leisure giant's hotels division inherits a company in robust health.

Alan Parker formally takes over as chief executive of Whitbread at tomorrow's annual meeting and the trading update to be issued by the group to coincide with the start of his reign will show that the former head of the leisure giant's hotels division inherits a company in robust health.

Analysts expect only positive news from the update. Like-for-like sales for the first seven weeks of the year are tipped to have risen at least 3.5 per cent. After a poor performance last year, Brewers Fayre and Brewsters outlets will show they are responding to treatment, while Beefeater sales are expected to have benefited from a revision of the restaurant chain's menus. Meanwhile, the UK hotel industry continues with its recovery and this will be evident in figures from Marriott.

At a strategic level, Mr Parker is expected to complete his review of the company by the end of the summer. But it is not clear what he will come up with, given that Whitbread is already doing so well. This is reflected in the performance of the company's share price, which has soared 25 per cent over the past 12 months. Whitbread remains involved in the auction for control of Premier Lodge, the budget hotel chain, which is now a two-horse race between it and the private equity firm Apax Partners.

TODAY: Evolution Beeson Gregory is of the view that full-year results from Radstone Technology are unlikely to disappoint. The broker forecasts pre-tax profits to jump to £7.1m from £6.3m last time. Hence, the key component in the computer hardware group's statement will be its outlook statement. Evolution tips the next 12 months to bebusy for Radstone. By this time next year, the broker expects the company to have successfully relocated its main offices and facilities, dealt with the renewed strength of its key competitor, Dy4, and made at least one significant acquisition.

Radstone has already begun relocating from its aging facility in Towcester, Northamptonshire. Once this is complete, the group should become cash generative. However, Evolution warns investors a rights issue may be required at Radstone, should it opt for a major acquisition.

Results: Full year - Carclo, Creston, Helphire, Majestic Wine, Radstone Technology, Renold, Workspace Group. Interims - None. Trading statements - None.

TOMORROW: Vedanta will post maiden full-year results. Since the mining group floated in December its shares have been on a downward trajectory, so the company has a lot to prove. The stock is down 25 per cent from its IPO level compared with a decline of just 5 per cent for the mining sector. Deutsche Bank is hoping Vedanta will reveal earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $326m, up from $224m in 2003. As ever with mining companies, an update on the progress of the company's projects will be of interest to the City.

Results: Full year - AIT Group; British Energy; Goldshield Group; Latchways; PHS; Vedanta Resources; VP. Interims - Civica. Trading statements - Whitbread.

WEDNESDAY: Results: Full year - Oasis Healthcare. Interims - None. Trading statements - None.

THURSDAY: The last time Carnival updated the analyst community, it raised their expectations of earnings at the group. The only thing that has changed since then is that the cruise ship operator faces higher energy costs due to the rising oil price. But investors should not be too worried about this. Fuel costs are a small part of Carnival's cost base so its Q2 figures are likely to show a solid rise in profitability. Gerrard, the stock broker, forecasts earnings a share to rise $0.35 from $0.19.

Results: Full year - None. Interims - Dart Group, Gooch & Housego, Carnival. Trading statements - None.

FRIDAY: Deutsche Bank became more positive about Misys ahead of its trading statement in an attempt to reflectsigns that the group's banking division is beginning to gain stability. Two things seem to indicate things are looking up for the software group. First, its competitors, Temenos and iFlex, have recently talked of better times for the industry, while contract wins at Misys have shown signs of an upturn over the past few months.

The sales figures to be presented at Tesco's annual meeting will show it has been "business as usual" at the retail giant, according to JP Morgan. The broker believes Tesco shareholders should not be concerned about the impact of the Morrison-Safeway union nor by Sainsbury's effort to slash prices. It believes the UK remains a growth market for Tesco and forecasts the group to deliver Q1 sales growth of 9.4 per cent. Sales growth abroad is expected to come in at more than 20 per cent.

Results: Full year - Business Systems. Trading statements - Misys; Tesco.

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