The Week Ahead: Investors look for cheer in drinks companies

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The Independent Online

This will be a week for pubs and drinks companies, sectors which have seen a bit of action of late. Last week's decision by the controlling Macdonald family to put the Glenmorangie malt whisky group on the auction block will no doubt prompt questions to the whisky giants Diageo and Allied Domecq. Both are due to give trading updates in the next few days.

This will be a week for pubs and drinks companies, sectors which have seen a bit of action of late. Last week's decision by the controlling Macdonald family to put the Glenmorangie malt whisky group on the auction block will no doubt prompt questions to the whisky giants Diageo and Allied Domecq. Both are due to give trading updates in the next few days.

There are also likely to be a few pointed queries aimed at Whitbread's chief executive, Alan Parker, who was appointed in June. The Pizza Hut to David Lloyd Leisure group is due to make a statement on current trading on Thursday, which will be Mr Parker's first outing in the City.

There has been speculation that the former managing director of the group's hotels division is set to instigate a wholesale shake-up of the increasingly sprawling group. However, recent moves at Whitbread have been in the other direction, given that a month ago it paid £505m for the Premier Lodge budget hotels chain. Most analysts expect Thursday's news to be something of a damp squib, with the outcome of the review set to be unveiled at the time of the interims in October.

TODAY: Brambles has yet to shake off the incubus of past disasters at its Chep pallets division. It famously lost 14 million of the industrial load carriers two years ago. Both the chief executive, Sir CK Chow, and the Chep boss Victor Mendes have gone in the wake of the fiasco.

Full-year figures should show a strong recovery at the division, but Williams de Broe, the broker, expects profits to have crept up just £4m to £290m.

Also due to report is Bunzl, a very steady performer over the years, with its mix of businesses ranging from food packaging to cigarette filters. In May, the group paid €330m (£220m) for Pierre Le Goff, a French distributor of cleaning and safety products. Profits are expected to have been flattened by exchange effects, leaving the pre-tax total little changed on the £101m achieved in 2003's first half.

Results:Full year - Brambles, DICOM, Home Entertainment. Interims - 1st Dental Laboratories, Ark Therapeutics, Bunzl Churchill China, CRH, John Laing, Mears, Metal Bulletin.

TOMORROW: Shares in Associated British Ports are well down on the 492p high of earlier this year. Sentiment was hit after the group's plans to build a major deep water port at Dibden on Southampton Water were turned down by the Government in April. Brokers expect the write-off of the Dibden expense to hit half-time figures, which are likely to be only marginally ahead of last year's £67m before tax.

The UK housing market continues to defy the bears, who have knocked shares in builders like Wilson Bowden from their peaks in the spring. Recent figures from rivals such as Persimmon have pointed to few signs of a meltdown in the market. Analysts are generally keen on Wilson Bowden shares, pointing to the group's spread of businesses, not to mention the rock-bottom forward multiple of 5.5. Halfway profits are expected to have jumped from £94m to close to £120m.

Results:Full year - Grosvenor Land, Morse. Interims - Arena Leisure, Associated British Ports, Brammer, Costain, Glanbia, Irish Life & Permanent, ITNET, LogicaCMG, Oxford Biomedica, Paddy Power, Savills, Serco, Signet, Tarsus, Wilson Bowden.

THURSDAY: There will undoubtedly be speculation that Diageo is gearing itself up to gulp down Glenmorangie. Regulatory concerns that the Guinness to Johnnie Walker group already has too big a share of the whisky market may, however, prevent serious consideration of such a stiff drink. The group is likely to be more forthcoming on the state of current trading and what is to happen to the $2bn-odd being raised from a sale of the stake in America's General Mills food group. Analysts expect full-year profits to have slipped a touch to £2.1bn.

Results:Full year - Diageo. Interims - AMEC, Antofagasta, Avis Europe, Axis-Shield, BBA, Biotrace International, Floors 2 Go, Fyffes, Heywood Williams, Hydro International, IFG, Marlborough Stirling, Mears, Molins, NETeller, RMC, Tibbett & Britten, Tikit, Wembley. Trading statement - Whitbread.

FRIDAY: Allied Domecq is the other drinks group reporting this week. The group's Dunkin' Donuts chain has been significantly outperforming its troubled rival Krispy Kreme. It has been the same story with Allied's "core" spirits brands such as Ballantine's whisky and Sauza tequila in the United States.

Results:Full year - Eidos, Go-Ahead Group, Macro 4, NetStore, Southampton Leisure, JD Wetherspoon, Whittard of Chelsea. Interims - Clarkson, Devro, Easynet, Highway Insurance, Horizon Technology, Marshalls, Melrose Resources, NSB Retail, Rank, Regal Petroleum, Shore Capital, Soco International, Transense Technologies, Universe, Vislink. Trading statement - Allied Domecq.

Economics Diary

TODAY: UK - consumer credit, mortgage lending (Jul), CBI retail sales survey (Aug). Eurozone - inflation (Aug). US - consumer confidence (Aug), Chicago PMI (Aug).

TOMORROW: UK - Nationwide house price survey (Aug), manufacturing PMI (Aug). Eurozone - manufacturing PMI (Aug), unemployment (Jul). US - ISM manufacturing index (Aug).

THURSDAY: Eurozone - producer price inflation (Jul), European Central Bank interest rate decision. Germany - unemployment (Aug). US - weekly jobless claims, factory orders (Jul).

FRIDAY:UK - services PMI (Aug). Eurozone - services PMI (Aug). US - non-farm payrolls (Aug), unemployment rate (Aug), ISM non-manufacturing index (Aug).

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