The Week Ahead: Life insurers to be examined for signs of recovery

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The Independent Online

The life insurance sector will be one of the most closely scrutinised in a busy week when more than a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies are scheduled to put out figures.

The life insurance sector will be one of the most closely scrutinised in a busy week when more than a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies are scheduled to put out figures.

Prudential and Friends Provident are expected to set out their controversial new dividend levels. The Pru has already signalled a cut - the first in its history - of some 40 per cent, while Friends Provident has abandoned the promise made at flotation two years ago to lift its pay-out by more than the rate of inflation each year.

Both companies - together with Aviva, the owner of Norwich Union, which also reports interim numbers - will help investors build a picture of the state of the life industry, where customer confidence has been shattered by the collapse of Equitable Life and the three-year bear market in equities.

Prudential's interim profits look set to be down 14 per cent to £466m; Aviva's may fall 22 per cent to £760m; and Friends Provident's could be down a third to £125m.

The banks' reporting season also continues. HBOS has been aggressively challenging the big four banks and made a push into the corporate banking market. Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein expects it to post a 23 per cent increase in earnings, with the esure car insurance business making a significant contribution for the first time.

Luqman Arnold, the new chief executive at troubled Abbey National, will be setting out his progress in a big disposal programme and in holding off threats to the bank's share of the mortgage market. And Eric Daniels, the even newer chief executive at Lloyds TSB, will be quizzed on the future strategy for the bank's Scottish Widows life insurance subsidiary. Lloyds is expected to post a 6 per cent decline in earnings.

TODAY: Job cuts at the Financial Times last Friday showed the Pearson-owned newspaper group is still having a tough time. Comments on advertising revenues will be key when Pearson reports interim results this morning. These are estimated to be barely above break-even.

Results: Full year - Filtronic; Monsoon. Interims - Aggregate Industries; BAA (Q1); BG Group; Datamonitor; Domino's Pizza UK; Exel; Hemscott; Isis Asset Management; Jardine Lloyd Thomson; Pearson; Royalblue; Xstrata.

TOMORROW: The UK's biggest company, the oil giant BP, is still enjoying the fruits of a buoyant oil price, although net income in the April-to-June quarter is likely to be some 20 per cent below that of the previous three months at $2.9bn (£1.8bn).

Results: Full year - Drew Scientific; Games Workshop; Warthog. Interims - Amersham; BP; British American Tobacco; Cookson; Elementis; Genetix; Novar; Prudential; RPS; St James's Place Capital; United Business Media.

WEDNESDAY: The consumer products group Unilever is still picking itself up from the disappointment of missed sales targets. It will be quizzed on how profitability can be improved to compensate.

Results: Full year - Homestyle; Osmetech; Western Selection. Interims - Alliance Unichem; ARC International; Abbey National; Bookham Technology; Croda International; Flomerics; Friends Provident; George Wimpey; IDN Telecom; RAC; TDG; Unilever.

THURSDAY: Ben Verwaayen, the chief executive of BT Group, is an apostle for the virtues of broadband internet services and it is this technological breakthrough that is crucial for driving sales at the telecoms giant. Meanwhile, cost cutting measures mean certain progress on the bottom line, perhaps boosting pre-tax profits from £319m last time to as much as £513m according to Gerrard, the broker.

British Airways will be asked to set out the financial impact of its "summer of discontent" as it posts figures for the first three months of its financial year. These are expected to show a loss of about £60m.

Results: Full year - none scheduled. Interims - Alfred McAlpine; Aviva; British Airways (Q1); BT Group (Q1); Centrica; Chubb; Hanson; HBOS; ICI; Laird; Rio Tinto; Rolls-Royce; Shire Pharmaceuticals; Smith & Nephew; Telewest Communications; Trinity Mirror.

FRIDAY: Results: Full year - none scheduled. Interims - Amvescap; Lloyds TSB.

ECONOMICS DIARY

TODAY: Eurozone - M3 money supply (Jun). Germany - IfO business sentiment index (Jul).

TOMORROW: UK - consumer credit/mortgage lending (Jun). Japan - unemployment rate (Jun). US - consumer confidence (Jul).

WEDNESDAY: UK - GfK consumer confidence (Jul), CBI Distributive Trades Survey (Jul). Japan - industrial production (Jun). France - Insée business confidence (Jul). US - Federal Reserve Beige Book.

THURSDAY: Eurozone - inflation (Jul), consumer & business confidence (Jul). European Central Bank meeting. US - weekly jobless claims, GDP (1st estimate) Q2, Chicago PMI (Jul).

FRIDAY: UK - manufacturing PMI (Jul). Eurozone - manufacturing PMI (Jul). US - non-farm payrolls (Jul), personal income/spending (Jun), Michigan consumer sentiment (final) Jul, ISM index (Jul).

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