The Week Ahead: Compass heading for return to better health
Monday 27 November 2006
The catering group Compass showed tentative signs of a recovery in its half-year results in May and investors will be hoping for signs of further progress when it reports full-year figures on Wednesday.
The troubled company has undergone major reforms in the past year and market attention is set to focus on the new chief executive Richard Cousins' plans for the business.
Mr Cousins - previously chairman of the plasterboard group BPB - joined Compass in June. Analysts are expecting details of future cost cutting initiatives among other plans.
Compass has been working to renegotiate or exit badly-performing contracts as well as to improve school meals in line with the Jamie Oliver-inspired drive for healthy eating. Last month, it settled its £600m lawsuit over United Nations contracts for less than £40m, though it admitted no liability in the alleged corruption case. Investec Securities expects Compass to post pre-tax profits of £355m, compared to £345m 12 months ago.
TODAY: RM, which supplies software and systems to schools, has been awarded three key contracts over the last two months at Stoke-on-Trent, Leeds and Knowsley. The wins could be worth £56m over five years, analysts say. A recent update confirmed trading was on track with growth in the group's education projects business offsetting pressures in the individual schools market. Analysts are looking for earnings before interest, tax and amortisation of £12.8m compared with £10.6m last year.
Results: Full year - RM. Interims - Homeserve; Proventec; UBC Media.
TUESDAY: The extent of the pressure on the advertising sector will be under the spotlight when GCap Media posts interim results. Analysts are predicting a slump in profits at the owner of Capital Radio and Classic FM. The group has suffered from falling audiences and a downturn in radio advertising but reported some improvement in July. It has launched its first marketing push in more than a year for London's Capital Radio, as well as limiting advertising breaks to two commercials and strengthening its on-air line-up. The impact on listener numbers will not be visible until the new year, but any sign of progress is likely to be well received.
Results: Full Year - Media Corp; Sarantel; Topps Tiles; WH Smith. Interims - GB; GCap Media; Kelda; Kings-ton Communications; Mitie.
WEDNESDAY: Mitchells & Butlers, which owns the pub chains All Bar One and Harvester, is tipped to report strong current trading trends when it posts full-year results.
Like-for-like sales have accelerated since the World Cup and analysts expect it to report more progress over the past few weeks. Investors will also want to know about its plans for the smoking ban in England and Wales. The City expects pre-tax profits of £205m compared to £193m a year ago.
Results: Full Year - Brewin Dolphin; Compass; Mitchells & Butlers. Interims - Asfare; Helical Bar.
THURSDAY: Shares in drinks maker Britvic rose about 20 per cent after it joined the stock market in December, then crashed by more than 30 per cent as the changing drinking habits of health-conscious consumers led to profits warnings.
It has clawed back some of its losses amid speculation that it is a takeover target and signs that it is getting to grips with its troubles. The group has launched several new products to tap into the fast-growing water market. Analysts expect full-year pre-tax profits of £55.8m when it reports its first full-year results as a listed company.
A pre-close trading statement from Jessops indicated the photographic retailer is on track. Analysts believe digital penetration has further to go and say that around half of Jessops' customers are upgrading to a second or third digital camera as improved designs offer better performance for less money.
Results: Full year - Abacus; Britvic; Jessops; McCarthy & Stone; Optos. Interims - AWG; Dyson; Findel; First Property; FKI.
FRIDAY: The brewer and pubs chain Wolverhampton & Dudley has made a string of takeovers in the last two years, including Burtonwood, Jennings Brothers, English Country Inns and Celtic Inns. Investors will be looking at whether there are plans for further spending. The introduction of new outlets enabled the company's beer brands to increase turnover by 5 per cent to £41.9m in the first half of the year at a time when the overall beer market declined.
Investors will be keen to hear about progress on its investment in patios, gardens and shelters ahead of the smoking ban. The City expects Wolverhampton to post pre-tax profits of £101m against £90m last year.
Results: Full year - Wolverhampton & Dudley.
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