The Week Ahead: Icelandair hovers as easyJet faces turbulence

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The Independent Online

The cut-price airline industry is no longer enjoying the exponential growth that it once did. With ever-increasing competition, high aviation fuel costs and cuts to routes, easyJet faces a much more sceptical audience when it releases its interims tomorrow.

The cut-price airline industry is no longer enjoying the exponential growth that it once did. With ever-increasing competition, high aviation fuel costs and cuts to routes, easyJet faces a much more sceptical audience when it releases its interims tomorrow. Its rival Ryanair announced on Friday that it would introduce four new destinations, including Gatwick to Knock in Ireland as well as increasing its existing services to Cork and Shannon to counter the threat of easyJet's new Irish routes.

The market is looking for full-year pre-tax profit from easyJet of £75.4m, but investors were warned in September that yields would remain under pressure for the foreseeable future. It is likely that yields will have improved slightly, but analysts are not expecting anything exciting in tomorrow's figures.

The Williams de Broe analyst Stephen Clapham says that "our forecast for 2005 remains a stab in the dark, and that is unlikely to change with these results".

Among those watching the easyJet numbers most closely will be Icelandair, which has recently built a 10.1 per cent stake in the company.

Rumours were rife last week that it will launch a full bid for easyJet, as the chief executive of Icelandair admitted his company would need to look outside Iceland if it is to grow further. Signs of a little weakness at easyJet may provide Icelandair with an opportunity to do just that, while signs of serious problems might put it off.

MONDAY: Results: Full year - Braemar Seascope; Cambridge Antibody Technology; Cardpoint; Care UK; Fountains; Get Group; Innovation Group; Nord Anglia Education. Interims - Torotrak; UBC Media; Workspace.

TUESDAY: InterContinental Hotels has come a long way in a short period of time since demerging from Bass. In fact, so have the shares, doubling in value over the same time period. The company returned £750m to shareholders in September and sacked its chief executive, Richard North, into the bargain.

The company is in the process of selling hotels and turning itself into a franchising and management group. Most analysts expect to see a small increase in third-quarter numbers, but more interest will be taken in news of further disposals.

Results: Full year - Abacus; API; easyJet; Enodis; RM Group; SCS Upholstery. Interims - CML Microsystems; Detica Group; Great Portland Estates; GWR; Mice Group; Printing.com; Tribal Group; Trifast; Veridian. Third quarter - Acambis; InterContinental Hotels; iTouch; Signet.

WEDNESDAY: The City favourite Icap, the securities, derivatives and money broking company, reports interims, and as usual the market will be looking for a strong set of figures based on increasing activity in the equity markets.

The stock, which traded as low as 37.5p in 2000, closed on Friday at 257.75p, valuing the company at more than £1.2bn.

Icap warned in July that activity had been hit by lower activity in the bond markets, but the strong bull run which has seen the FTSE 100 rise to almost 5,000 in recent sessions should mean that the company at least meets analysts' forecasts.

Results: Full year - 2 Ergo Group; Euromoney Institutional Investor; Gladstone. Interims - Abbeycrest; Avocet Mining; Icap; Imagination Technologies; Intelek; Speedy Hire; Victoria. Third quarter - Tomkins.

THURSDAY: A detailed trading update given in September should mean few surprises from Johnson Matthey, the chemical and coatings group, which provides the market with interim results.

It is likely that high precious metal prices will have underpinned performance, which Johnson said in September would be ahead of last year in all four divisions.

However, many analysts believe the company already has much of the good news included in the price, so if there are any surprises they are likely to be nasty ones.

The market is expecting pre-tax profits to be in the range of £100 - £104m.

Results - Full year - Capital Radio; lastminute.com; Lonmin; Paragon. Interims - Accident Exchange; Babcock International; Halfords; Investec; Jarvis; Johnson Matthey; London Clubs International; London Merchant; Pillar Property; TRL Electronics; United Utilities.

FRIDAY: Results: Full year - Brewin Dolphin; Countryside Properties. Interims - Plasmon; Telecom Plus; Ten Alps Communications; Tops Estates; Workplace System.

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