The Week Ahead: Retail results will show effect of London bombs

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The Independent Online

All eyes will be on the retail sector this week, as two of the industry's biggest companies publish their interim results, and give investors an indication of just how badly the slowdown on Britain's high streets is affecting them.

Next, which reports on Thursday, is expected to reveal a slight fall in sales for the first half. However, investors and analysts are most interested in hearing how the company has fared in the two months since the end of June - including what effects the London terrorist attacks have had on business.

The other major retailer to report is Kingfisher - the owner of B&Q - which announced in May that it had seen a 6 per cent fall in sales during the first three months of the year - a position which is not expected to have improved during the second quarter.

TODAY: Investors in the insurance sector will be eagerly anticipating announcements from Hiscox and Catlin today - two of the only Lloyd's of London insurers yet to publish an estimate for their losses from Hurricane Katrina. Although both took the four hurricanes last year in their stride, no insurer has yet owned up to being badly exposed to the latest storm - which is now on course to be the costliest in history. Soon enough someone is sure to be found holding more than their fair share of what is estimated to be a $40bn (£22bn) loss in total.

Elsewhere, investors will be keen to hear how the London terrorist attacks have affected Group 4 Securicor's business. With security now tighter across the UK, Group 4 is expected to have been one of the few beneficiaries of the July bombings.

Results: Interims - Bovis Homes, Candover, Catlin, Forth Ports, Group 4 Securicor, Hiscox, Interserve, Regus, Whatman, Johnson Service. Q3 - Cambridge Antibody Technology.

TOMORROW: The ailing fashion retailer French Connection will get the City in the mood for the retail sector's reporting season, as it updates the market on whether it has managed to stem the decline in sales which it has sustained over the past 18 months. At the start of July, the group warned that profits were going to be down some 40 per cent this year. Given that trading conditions on the high street appear not to have improved since then, investors may want to brace themselves for another dose of bad news.

Friends Provident also reports tomorrow, wrapping up the life insurance interim reporting season. There should be few surprises here, given that the group released a second-quarter trading statement only a few weeks ago. However, the market will be keen to hear whether appetite in the savings market is picking up, and whether the group is managing to stem the deterioration in its margins.

Results: Full year - Redrow. Interims - Antofagasta, Cobham, Computacenter, Friends Provident, Laird Group, Spectris, Wood Group, French Connection. Trading update - Daily Mail & General.

WEDNESDAY: Provident Financial will provide the market with an update on conditions in the home credit market on Wednesday. However, investors' main focus will be on Provident's car credit business which, it said in July, is set to rack up a loss this year after sales plummeted. Analysts will also be keen to pick up any hint as to how the competition commission's investigation into the home credit market is progressing. A negative outcome could lead the company into even bigger problems than it already has.

Tullow Oil also reports on Wednesday - the first of a string of oil companies to publish results over the coming days. With oil prices continuing to push record highs, the Irish group is expected to provide a very upbeat set of results.

Results: Interims - Provident Financial, SIG, Tullow Oil, Caffe Nero, Incisive Media, Monterrico Metals.

THURSDAY: Although the market's focus will be on the glitz and glamour of the retail sector - where both Next and Kingfisher are reporting - Centrica is the biggest company to report on Thursday, and is expected to reveal another strong set of numbers. Centrica has found recent rises in energy prices difficult to manage - and only on Friday was forced to announce another hefty price increase to its customers. While these rises have lost the group thousands of customers, it has decided to try and maintain its margins. Investors will be looking for some reassurance that it has now stopped haemorrhaging clients.

Premier Oil also publishes its interims on Thursday, with investors hoping for an update on the progress of its current exploration programmes, and new wells in Asia.

Results: Interims - Abbot Group, Aggreko, Centrica, Kingfisher, Next, Premier Oil, Dignity, M&C Saatchi, RPS Group.

FRIDAY: No major companies reporting.