The Week Ahead: M&S and Mothercare under scrutiny


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The Independent Online

Investors will be scrutinising figures from Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Mothercare this week, as the two under-pressure retailers update on trading.

Consensus in the City is that M&S’s fourth-quarter numbers on Thursday will reveal a further 1 per cent fall in so-called “general merchandise” sales – clothing and homeware.

Sales in the crucial division have been falling for 10 successive quarters, overshadowing rising food sales, and another fall would heap further pressure on boss Marc Bolland.

Thursday also brings Mothercare’s fourth-quarter report. Chief executive Simon Calver pushed the ejector-seat button in February after a profit warning from the baby-goods retailer. Since then Mark Newton-Jones has been parachuted in as interim boss, the former head of “digital department store” Shops Direct. Investors will be hoping  Mr Newton-Jones can set out a convincing online strategy for Mothercare.

Pork provider Cranswick reveals how it fared in 2013 on Monday. Numis predicts an 11 per cent rise in sales thanks to contract wins with Asda and M&S.

Investors will see the television gambling group NetPlay TV’s preliminary numbers on Tuesday, as well as a trading statement from parcel deliver UK Mail.

Midweek brings a trading update from the London Olympics engineer  WS Atkins, which is expected to hold few surprises. The Italian pizza and pasta chain Prezzo and Egyptian gold miner Centamin will also update the market on Wednesday.

WH Smith will hand in its first-half report on Thursday. Kate Swann, who left as chief executive last year, was loved by the City thanks to her trick of delivering falling sales but rising profits. Investors will be hoping replacement Stephen Clarke can repeat the trick.

St Tropez fake tan maker PZ Cussons and online gambling firm 888 Holdings both talk shop on Thursday.

Sheridan Admans at The Share Centre expects good production figures within Vedanta Resources’s fourth-quarter report on Thursday, but warns investors to keep an eye on debt levels, which are relatively high.

Finally, Jupiter Fund Management ends the week with a trading statement.