The Week Ahead: Investors expect Centrica to turn up the heat

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Market watchers are spoilt for choice this week with no fewer than 16 FTSE 100 companies slated to report either interim or final results.

After BG Group's blockbuster profits last week, all eyes on Thursday will fall on full-year figures from another gas group, Centrica.

Soaring domestic gas prices over the past year may make the company unpopular with customers, but investors should be better pleased with its performance.

The gas supplier, which operates under the British Gas brand over here, has been the subject of bid speculation in recent weeks after the Russian gas giant Gazprom admitted to running the slide-rule over it.

With or without a bid premium in the share price, Centrica has been a sound investment since the original British Gas was split up in 1997. The company released an upbeat trading statement on 16 December, so no nasty surprises should lurk in the full-year results. Analysts typically expect the company to unveil pre-tax profits of £1.4bn for the year.

TODAY: Results: Full year - CRC Group; EQ Group. Half year - Ekay.

TOMORROW: Barclays will be the first of the big UK banks to report 2005 results and, with the whole sector caught up in a rash of bid rumours, analysts and traders will be more interested in strategy than the numbers themselves. The bank is expected to report full-year pre-tax profits of £5.2bn.

Results from Cadbury Schweppes will be studied by potential bidders thought to include Nestlé and Hershey's. Consensus forecasts for the world's largest confectioner are for pre-tax profits of £898m.

Scottish & Newcastle got a shot in the arm last week from BBH, the Russian brewer in which it has a 50 per cent stake. Experts expect the company to unveil pre-tax profits of £391m. Carlsberg, the Danish brewer that owns the other half of BBH, is thought to be preparing a bid for S&N, and Anheuser Busch, the world's largest brewer, may also take a keen interest in full-year results.

Results: Full year - Barclays; Cadbury Schweppes; George Wimpey; Millennium & Copthorne Hotels; Schroders; Scottish & Newcastle. Half year - Thorntons.

WEDNESDAY: No prizes for guessing that analysts are expecting record profits from Anglo American. The platinum, gold and base metals mining giant has followed the rest of its sector over the last 12 months and the shares have risen by more than 60 per cent. BHP Billiton banked record profits last week and Anglo will severely disappoint the market if it does not follow suit. Analysts have pencilled in pre-tax profits of £3.2bn.

Life has been mixed for Associated British Foods, the retail and food ingredients group. Its Primark discount clothing retail business is the undisputed jewel in the crown, but the food side has suffered from declining margins. Analysts will be looking for continued rapid expansion of Primark, on top of pre-tax profits of about £600m.

Results: Full year - Anglo American; Associated British Foods; Croda International; Morgan Crucible; Morgan Sindall; Plusnet; Rexam; SDL. Half year - Compel Group; Sportingbet.

THURSDAY: Expect a bustling day in the markets as seven members of the FTSE 100 index report. The broker Williams de Broë expects more developments in Hanson's dividend policy due to the company's excellent cash flow, although continuing asbestos litigation may hold the shares back in the short term. The broker is expecting pre-tax profits of £412m.

There's not much left of Hilton Group apart from bookmaker Ladbrokes, after it sold its hotel chain in December. The group is thought to have received private equity-backed bids valuing Europe's largest chain of bookies at £3.7bn, and the group's Ladbrokes strategy will be more interesting than the numbers. Shareholders are set to receive around £4bn in the wake of the hotels sale.

Results: Full year - BAE Systems; Capita Group; Centrica; Colt Telecom; Hanson; Hilton Group; IBS OPENSystems; London Capital Group; Rentokil Initial; Reuters; Shire; Spirent; Spring Group; Tomkins. Half year - Brambles Industries; Compel Group; Galliford Try; Sportingbet. Third quarter - Invensys.

FRIDAY: Martin Sorrell is engaged in a battle with WPP Group's Italian subsidiary, but expect his mind to be fully focused on full-year results. Brokers are looking for pre-tax profits of £628m from the communications and advertising group.

Finally, perennial bid target Lloyds TSB is due to reveal annual results. Analysts expect the country's top provider of current accounts to report pre-tax profits of £3.6bn, but traders will be keen to hear developments on strategy or a possible sale of its Scottish Widows life and pensions business.

Results: Full year - Lloyds TSB; WPP Group. First half - Lincat.

Comments