The week ahead: Get ready for the big hitters: FTSE fields a team of all-stars

It's all about quality rather than quantity this week. There may not be a raft of announcements due, but with some of the market's biggest companies reporting, it will be a busy week.

It's all about quality rather than quantity this week. There may not be a raft of announcements due, but with some of the market's biggest companies reporting, it will be a busy week.

Oil giants Shell and BP both put out third-quarter numbers, and are expected to have benefited from the soaring price of crude. Analysts are hoping to up final forecasts for BP on the back of Tuesday's results. Williams de Broë's Richard Griffith is predicting net clean income to surge to a record $4.23bn (£2.31bn) from $2.87bn last year and commented in a recent note: "Scope for upward revisions to the full-year 2004 estimates is strong, as actual oil and gas prices are set to exceed our forecasts."

That is doubly good news for investors. BP, led by Lord Browne, has already unveiled around $5.5bn worth of buybacks so far in 2004, and with oil prices and profits now booming, analysts are predicting the programme could reach around $8bn for the full year. Exploration and production volumes are expected to rise by around 11 per cent.

Excluding Russian venture TNK-BP, however, production is likely to have fallen as a combination of planned maintenance and outages in the Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season take their toll. Investors will also want an update on partnership talks with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

Another heavyweight due to report is GlaxoSmithKline. The City will be looking for robust sales from various key products, including asthma treatment Advair and blood pressure drug Coreg. It will also be the last set of results that suffers significantly from generic competition to antidepressant Paxil, which will contribute to a year-on-year drop of around 12 per cent, to £1.48bn, in pre-tax profits.

From drugs to chemicals, and ICI reports third-quarter numbers on the same day. Here the surging cost of crude could prove a problem as ICI's raw material prices shoot up. However, cost cutting and solid trading mean pre-tax profits are expected to nudge forward from £98m to around £110m.

Retail remains in the spotlight with Marks & Spencer revealing the results and strike price of its tender offer, and some well-trailed numbers due from Boots. The chemist chain and potential Ann Summers rival revealed earlier this month that it was drawing a line under its less-than-successful foray into services by selling its dentistry and eye-laser clinics.

It also warned that trading had been dented by stiff competition from supermarkets and the wet weather. Pre-tax profits are predicted to fall from £266m to around £210m.

So, with much of the bad news already out of the way, the focus at will be forward looking. The chain's Christmas campaign is under way and a strong festive showing will be vital.

Another company enduring well-publicised difficulties is Unilever, owner of Hellmann's mayonnaise, Magnum ice cream, Lipton tea, Slim-Fast and Domestos, among many others. The Anglo-Dutch giant has reported two consecutive quarters of disappointing sales growth and has been forced to abandon its double-digit earnings growth guidance for 2004. The expectation now is for low single-digit growth.

The tone of these latest results is likely to remain subdued, with trading continuing to be difficult, particularly in northern Europe, where pricing pressures from discount retailers are hitting home. The wet weather also hurt ice cream sales over the summer, and pre-tax profits are expected to fall from £7.65bn to around £7.14bn.

British American Tobacco also releases third-quarter numbers. The group has offloaded its US operation Brown & Williamson - and, crucially, its liabilities - via the subsidiary's merger with RJ Reynolds. But it remains a 42 per cent shareholder in the new company, so weak trading in North America and the Department of Justice trial against the industry, in which BAT is named as a co-defendant, are still focuses for investors. Currency fluctuations will have an impact on the numbers, and analysts are expecting flat profits before interest, tax and amortisation of around £775m.

From the media sector, the market will hear from advertising and marketing giant WPP, which produces an update on trading. It is unlikely to set the world alight, however. At the interims, chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell maintained a cautious outlook, and conditions are unlikely to have changed dramatically in the past three months. A review of the newly acquired Grey is also not expected until the full-year results.

The third-quarter earnings season in the States includes updates from controversial services group Halliburton, consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble and Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch, the world's biggest brewer.

In continental Europe, meanwhile, there are numbers from Abbey National's new parent, Banco Santander Central Hispano, car manufacturers Volkswagen and Fiat, and sportswear specialist Puma.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 25

UK: Results: (interim) Alterian.

Tuesday 26

UK: Results: (final) Armour Group, Regent Inns; (I) Bristol & West Investments, Hitachi Capital UK, TTP Communications, Westbury; (first quarter) Surfcontrol; (third quarter) BP, British American Tobacco.

Wednesday 27

UK: Results: (I) Blueheath, Celsis International; (Q3) Unilever.

Thursday 28

UK: Results: (F) Formation Group; (I) Blacks Leisure Group, Boots, Chloride Group, Whitbread; (Q3) Amvescap. GlaxoSmithKline, ICI, Shell.

Friday 29

UK: Results: none scheduled.

VIDEO
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Arts & Entertainment
film
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

**Financial Services Tax**

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal