The Week Ahead: Ex-Sportingbet chief waits for the wheel of fortune to turn

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The Independent Online

The focus is once again on the online gaming sector this week, as former Sportingbet chairman Peter Dicks (pictured below) returns from the UK to New York to hear the outcome of an extradition request.

Mr Dicks was arrested earlier this month as part of a crackdown on internet gambling, which is technically illegal in the US. He stepped down as chairman following his arrest, and was allowed to return home. On Thursday, however, a New York State judge will rule on a request by the State of Louisiana to extradite him. Sportingbet's rival BetonSports is also caught up in the crackdown: its now-former chief executive, David Carruthers, was arrested recently too.

Back at home and on somewhat safer territory is Standard Life, which presents its first set of interim results as a plc. Questions will be asked about what is believed to be an impending boardroom shake-up. It was suggested last week that finance director Alison Reed could be one of the victims of the overhaul. Analysts also believe that Standard Life's chairman, Sir Brian Stewart, will be stepping down, after successfully guiding the former mutual through its summer flotation.

Elsewhere, investors will be dry-mouthed with anticipation as the beleaguered soft drinks group Brit-vic presents a trading update. Takeover speculation has been rife for most of the year following three profit warnings, largely due to a collapse in fizzy drinks sales as consumers switch to healthier, more fashionable smoothies and fresh fruit juices.

It will be a busy week for one of Britvic's non-executive directors, Bob Ivell, who heads Regent Inns. The pub group, which operates the Walkabout chain of Australian-themed bars and Jongleurs comedy clubs, reports annual results.

In fact, the sector will be well represented: also updating on trading are Mitchells & Butlers, owner of All Bar One and O'Neill's; the pubs and brewery group Wolverhampton & Dudley; and Enterprise Inns.

After London Fashion Week stole the headlines last week, the style spotlight will now turn on Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz. It posts third-quarter results, and investors will be interested to hear how the UK high street is holding up. Other retailers reporting include Kesa Electricals, which owns Comet, the newly formed Alliance Boots, and John David Group.

HMV shareholders, meanwhile, meet on Thursday to vote on the music and books chain's new share plan, to which shareholder group Pirc is opposed. It is concerned that the initiative, which is intended to replace the company's existing share-option scheme, does not appear to have any information attached that would assist shareholders in determining whether proposed online targets have been met.

Transport is also well represented this week. The Irish carrier Aer Lingus will reveal the pricing of its upcoming initial private offering, while Ryanair hosts its annual investor day in New York. Morgan Stanley said it would be using the event to examine what impact new security measures at UK airports are having on flight turnaround times - a core element of the airline's business model.

From planes to buses and trains, as National Express reports its half-year results on Thursday. Charles Stanley analyst Tony Shepard said investors should not expect details on the strategic direction of the company as new chief Richard Bowker has only been in place for two weeks.

Others reporting in a crowded week include Northern Racing, which pulled out of a consortium bidding for the £400m Tote bookmaker, and construction group Wolseley. Mr Shepard at Charles Stanley said: "The focus for investors will be the extent of the US downturn in the housing market, where Wolseley is highly exposed."

In the technology arena, the owner of the Lara Croft games, SCI Entertainment, posts its annual results, while Britain's largest video games retailer, Game, will report its half-year results.


Sunday 25

UK RESULTS: (final) Aero Inventory, Minerva, Wolseley; (interim) Asterand, Ceres Power, Close Brothers, CODASciSys, EQ, Hardy Oil & Gas, Healthcare Locums, Leisure & Gaming, Peach Holdings, Plethora Solutions, Smallbone, Symphony Plastic Technology.

Tuesday 26

UK RESULTS: (F) ICM Computer Group, Regent Inns, White Young Green; (I) Aricom, Atlantic Global, Barr, Corin, Entertainment Rights, Game group, Havelock Europa, Informa, JKX Oil & Gas, Plant Health Care, Robotic Technology Systems, ServicePower Technologies, Vanco, WIN.

Wednesday 27

UK RESULTS: (F) Barratt, SCI Entertainment, Smiths Group; (I) China Shoto, D1 Oils, Deal Group Media, House of Fraser, Kesa Electricals, Motivcom, Standard Life.

Thursday 28

UK RESULTS: (F) Corpora, Lincat Group, PFR Infrastructure; (I) @UK, CeNeS Pharmaceuticals, Cyan Holdings, Dana Petroleum, Inditherm, Intermodal Resource, Lambert Howarth , National Express, Punch Graphix, Skyepharma, Watermark Group.

Friday 29

UK RESULTS: (F) Tenon, (I) Adventis, Apace Media, Northern Racing, Songbird Estates, Trading Emissions.