The Week Ahead: No magic cure after drug setback at AstraZeneca

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The Independent Online

The high street and its generally tough summer have dominated the newsflow recently. This week, however, marks a new direction as oil and drugs take centre stage.

Shares in pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca are trading near an 18-month low after it failed to secure backing from the US authorities for its anticoagulant, Exanta.

The Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel decided the potential risks out- weighed any benefits, putting the launch back by around two years. And on Wednesday, Astra- Zeneca's chief executive, Tom McKillop, responds to the setback for the first time.

It will be a crucial presentation, as the group tries to convince a sceptical City that it remains on track. The omens are not promising.

A recent report by Lehman Brothers noted: "With a delay to Exanta and Crestor [its cholesterol-lowering drug] continuing to disappoint in the US, the investment thesis for AstraZeneca has changed. Can management revitalise the story in the eyes of investors? In our view, this will be difficult. We believe there is further downside risk."

The other giant addressing the market is BP, with a third-quarter update on trading. Production levels are likely to have been boosted by the Russian venture TNK-BP, which will also help offset hurricane- related disruption.

Volumes are likely to be up around 13 per cent but down 8 per cent once TNK is taken out of the equation. The price of crude, meanwhile, is causing headaches for most, but for BP's profits it can only be good news.

The attention-grabbing updates from AstraZeneca and BP will not mean that retail disappears from view. At Moss Bros, takeover speculation refuses to go away and will no doubt be raised once again when the retailer publishes what are likely to be solid interim results.

Joe Bloggs entrepreneur Shami Ahmed started stalking the company three years ago before selling his stake this year to Kevin Stanford, co-founder of fashion chain Karen Millen.

Mr Stanford now has, through a mixture of shares and contracts for difference, a 28 per cent stake and is understood to want talks with management. However, insiders say that although management expects to meet him - as they would any major shareholder - their understanding is that he views it as a long-term investment, not a springboard for a takeover.

Another retailer subject to takeover speculation is Austin Reed. Investment firm Dawnay Day has increased its holding and now has around 25 per cent, most of which is also comprised of contracts for difference. A bid, should it be forthcoming, is expected be around the £50m mark.

Investors will want an update on this, though an insider says the situation is currently "static". As for the figures, Austin Reed has already warned that a tough summer is likely to produce a loss of up to £3m.

An update on second-quarter trading is due from Carphone Warehouse, where analysts are predicting a slight tail-off in the strong levels of growth seen in the first three months, and interim numbers are due from Game. The market is looking for interim losses of around £3m against a 14 per cent slide in underlying sales at the computer games chain. But the City is not too downbeat. Much of the poor showing is down to the small number of new releases - a situation that is set to improve in the second half.

And trading will also get under way in Lewis, the South African retailer that Argos-owner GUS spun off last week for 1.1bn rand (£94m).

Away from the high street and another well-known name - in some areas of north London at least - due to report is Tottenham Hotspur.

The listed football club, controlled by chairman Daniel Levy's Enic investment vehicle, is likely to reveal a full-year loss. However, it is thought the numbers will show a marginal improvement on last year's £7.1m deficit, and while player amortisation is expected to remain in double figures, it is likely to be down on 2003's £18.6m.

Unlike larger rival Manchester United, however, the club will not be revealing how much money it has paid to agents.

Stateside, and there will be numbers from Yum! Brands, the owner of fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell, and hotel giant Marriott International.

In mainland Europe, the exclusive Danish electronics group Bang & Olufsen and listed German football club Borussia Dortmund both have results out.

On the economic front, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank round off annual meetings today, while the European Central Bank and Bank of England take a view on interest rates. And with the European recovery far from certain, UK consumer spending slowing down and the housing market cooling, no change is expected.


Tomorrow 4

UK: Results: (final) Charteris.

Tuesday 5

UK: Results: (interim) Game Group, Rugby Estates.

US: Results: (Q3) Yum! Brands.

Wednesday 6

UK: Results: (F) Air Partner; (I) Austin Reed, Manganese Bronze, Ted Baker.

US: Results: (Q4) Monsanto.

Thursday 7

UK: Results: (F) Reed Health Group; (I) Moss Bros.

US: Results: (Q3) Marriott International.

Friday 8

UK: Results: none scheduled.

Denmark: Results: (Q1) Bang & Olufsen.

Germany: Results: (F) Borussia Dortmund.