The Week Ahead: Investors to check out Morrison's progress

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The Independent Online

The continuing battle of the supermarkets will dominate this week's news. As well as Justin King, the chief executive of J Sainsbury, who is set to unveil a radical strategy for turning around the supermarket chain's flagging performance tomorrow, Sir Ken Morrison will also be feeling shareholder pressure this week. The William Morrison supermarket chain reports its first-half results to the market on Thursday and the focus will be on Safeway, the chain it bought after a long drawn-out bid battle.

Investors will want to know how the integration process is going and, crucially, how Safeway stores that have been converted into the Morrison's format are performing in terms of sales volumes and profitability. Also of keen interest will be whether sales in unconverted stores have improved. But shareholders will also want to know what progress is being made on disposing the Safeway stores that must be sold to meet competition requirements. Weekend reports claimed 120 Safeway stores have been sold to its smaller rival Somerfield for about £250m.

TODAY: Results: Full year - Bizspace.

TOMORROW: Reckitt Benck-iser, the household goods giant that makes Lemsip and Airwick air freshener, will update shareholders today on its third quarter. Having raised guidance for its full-year earnings at the half year, it now has to prove it is on track to deliver its promises. Strong product innovation means that Reckitt is unlikely to be suffering the same difficult trading conditions as reported recently by Unilever. Sales and margins are expected to have grown, although rising oil prices may be affecting its input costs.

Shareholders will be looking for some progress from Egg, the online bank, on the sale of its loss-making French operations. Earlier this month it said it was in talks with ING to take the business off its hands.

Results: Full year - Bellway, Mouchel Parkman, Premier Direct Group, Sportingbet. Interims - Reckitt Benckiser, ARM Holdings, N Brown Group, Egg, Reuters, European Motor Holdings. Trading statement - J Sainsbury.

WEDNESDAY: The new chief executive of Colt Telecom, Jean-Yves Charlier, will be in the spotlight today, reporting third-quarter earnings and unveiling its corporate strategy. Mr Charlier joined the struggling company in September, and immediately embarked on a strategic review of the company. It reported losses of £26.3m at the half year, and since then Thus, a rival of Colt, has warned on deteriorating margins.

A run of acquisitions and cost cutting at Sage, the software company, have led to expectations of an upbeat trading statement from the group today. Revenues from support contracts appear to be holding up, meaning it should still be in line with forecasts. But the company is expected to say that market conditions are still challenging, with little sign of an imminent recovery.

Results: Full year - none. Interims - Autonomy, Colt Telecom. Trading statement - Diageo, Sage.

THURSDAY: By the time Allied Domecq, the drinks company behind brands such as Malibu and Teachers whiskey, reports its full-year results today, the City will already have had a tipple of how business is going at its rival Diageo. It has a trading statement on Wednesday, and after reporting disappointing profit growth in September, sales are expected to show signs of stronger growth in the US. Allied investors, however, will want to know more about its restaurant business. This includes Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts, and so strong was the performance of this division over the past year that there have been rumours it may sell it to release capital.

Following the recent annual business review from AstraZeneca, the City is already pretty well informed of its recent performance. Pre-tax profits for the third quarter are in the range of $1.22bn to $1.32bn, a small improvement on its $1.12bn in the second quarter. No doubt further questions will be asked of Exanta, its blood-clotting treatment whose US launch has been delayed for at least two years, and its associated write-downs. Sales, however, are expected to be up on the back of its Seroquel drug, a treatment for schizophrenia and other mental illnesses and Crestor, its key cholesterol drug. News of other drugs in its development pipeline will be of interest.

Results: Full year - Allied Domecq, Freeport. Interims - AstraZeneca, William Morrison, Jennings Brothers, QXL Ricardo.

FRIDAY: Marks & Spencer shareholders will get the chance to vote on the proposed £2.3bn tender offer launched last month. It recently said sales had slumped over the summer, but trading had started to improve in the past few weeks.

Results: None scheduled.

Economics Diary

TODAY: Eurozone - inflation (Sep). US - net portfolio investment (Aug).

TOMORROW: UK - RICS house price survey (Sep). Eurozone - industrial production (Aug). Germany - six lead institutes publish autumn forecasts. Canada - interest rate decision. US - inflation (Sep); Alan Greenspan speech to American Community Bankers.

WEDNESDAY: UK - public finances (Sep); building society commitments (Sep); MPC minutes (Oct). ECB's biannual Convergence Report. Eurozone - finance ministers meeting.

THURSDAY: UK - retail sales (Sep). EU - Ecofin meeting. France - consumer spending (Sep). Italy - consumer confidence (Oct). US - weekly jobless claims; leading indicator (Sep); Philadelphia Fed Survey (Oct).

FRIDAY: UK - GDP (first estimate) Q3; motor vehicle production (Sep). Japan - all industries index (Aug). France - inflation (Sep). Italy - retail sales (Aug).