The Week Ahead: It's not so easy now as rivals and oil prices ground profits

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The summer holidays may be a distant memory but, for the City, travel features heavily this week. Two airlines announce results and with the recent surges in the oil price, investors will be paying close attention.

The summer holidays may be a distant memory but, for the City, travel features heavily this week. Two airlines announce results and with the recent surges in the oil price, investors will be paying close attention.

In the orange corner, budget airline easyJet has warned of tough conditions and has scaled back expansion plans. Full-year, pre-tax profits are expected to have slipped from £96m to £72m. But while margins are down because of the oil price and stiff competition, easyJet recently announced a 25 per cent rise in passenger numbers.

There may also be some comments on rival Icelandair, which has built up a 10.1 per cent stake in easyJet, fuelling takeover rumours.

In the red, white and blue (and orange) corner is Air France-KLM. The merger of the French and Dutch carriers created Europe's biggest airline, and the interim results are the first from the new entity. Early signs are encouraging, with recent figures showing revenue growth across the group.

Hoping to fill those airline seats is lastminute.com. The online retailer has had an eventful year, with co-founder Martha Lane Fox and chairman Allan Leighton leaving. The company has also expanded, signing a number of partnership agreements beside various acquisitions. But its chief executive, Brent Hoberman, is now looking to cut costs, and is hoping to take out £13m by 2005, so investors will want an update.

Hoping to supply rooms to those airline travellers is Inter- Continental Hotels. Investors will be looking for information on the sale of its US and UK properties as the group moves towards being a manager, rather than an owner, of hotels. Third-quarter pre-tax profits are expected to be up from £93m to £95m.

Several utilities are also reporting, though the numbers will be overshadowed by the regulatory reviews from Ofgem, out at the end of this month, and Ofwat, due on 2 December. So the focus will be on their unregulated businesses.

At United Utilities, analysts are hoping for more details on its recently announced, 15-year, £1.5bn Welsh Water contract in infrastructure management, potential growth in outsourcing and the profitability of its telecoms unit. At smaller rival AWG, owner of Anglican Water, the main focus will also be on its infrastructure business, with investors keen for updates on the order book, margins and bid costs. And at Viridian, investors will want to hear about how Northern Ireland's biggest electricity provider is faring in its push into the Republic.

The property sector is represented in results from Great Portland Estates and British Land, the first set under its new chief executive, Stephen Hester. The City is looking for robust numbers from the blue chip, which owns the Broadgate development at London's Liverpool Street.

Less encouraging signals are coming from radio, with both Chrysalis and Emap recently sounding downbeat about prospects. Observers of Thursday's figures from Capital Radio will be looking to see if this trend continues. They will also be interested in any news on its proposed merger with GWR, which reports two days earlier.

Car-parts and bikes chain Halfords announces maiden interim results following its June flotation. An encouraging trading statement was released in October and analysts will want to see this reflected in profits and revenues.

Investors in Cambridge Antibody Technology are in for a tense time. A key court case with Abbot Laboratories over royalty payments starts tomorrow, the same day as CAT's final results. The case could continue for some weeks, but the share price is likely to react sharply depending on the result. Operationally, investors will be keen to hear about new products after news that Trabio, a proposed glaucoma treatment, had underperformed in trials.

Overseas, and retailer Toys R Us, Jack Daniels owner Brown-Forman and German healthcare group Bayer are all reporting.

Economic data, however, is thinned out by America's Thanksgiving Holiday. Before the turkey gets stuffed, the US will savour two key economic announcements: jobless claims numbers and big-ticket durable goods figures.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 22

UK: Results: (final) Cambridge Antibody Technology, Cardpoint, Care UK, Fountains, Innovation Group, Nord Anglia Education; (interim) Braemar Seascope, Hamworthy KSE, Merchant Retail, Prelude Trust, Torotrak, UBC Media; (second quarter) Workspace.

Tuesday 23

UK: Results:

(F) Abacus, API, easyJet, Enodis, RM, ScS Upholstery; (I) CML Microsystems, Detica, Great Portland Estates, GWR, Mice Group, Printing.com, Tribal, Trifast, Viridian; (third quarter) Acambis, InterContinental Hotels, iTouch, Signet.

Wednesday 24

UK: Results: ((F) 2 Ergo, Euromoney Institutional Investor, Gladstone; (I) Abbeycrest, AWG, British Land, Business Serve, Icap, Imagination Technologies, Intelek, Speedy Hire, Victoria; (Q3) Tomkins.

Thursday 25

UK: Results: (F) Capital Radio, Character Group, lastminute.com, Lonmin, New Avesco, Pillar Property; (I) Accident Exchange, Babcock International, Halfords, Investec, Johnson Matthey, London Merchant Securities, TRL Electronics, United Utilities; (first quarter) Sportingbet.

Friday 26

UK: Results: (I) Fuller Smith & Turner, Ten Alps Communications.

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