The week ahead: Retail sector to dominate investors' week

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer will once again be at the top of the City news agenda today, when its new chief executive, Stuart Rose, lays out the company's defence against Philip Green's £9bn bid and outlines his proposed strategy to get the company back on track.

Marks & Spencer will once again be at the top of the City news agenda today, when its new chief executive, Stuart Rose, lays out the company's defence against Philip Green's £9bn bid and outlines his proposed strategy to get the company back on track.

Several major shareholders have already spoken out against the retailer after its swift dismissal of Mr Green's 400p-a-share offer last week, warning that it will have to come up with some very good reasons to convince shareholders that it was right to reject the proposal.

Mr Rose will be glad to have the allegations of insider dealing behind him, after the City regulator cleared him last week, but he knows he could be in for a rough ride at the company's annual general meeting on Wednesday if he does not put on an impressive performance today.

This is undoubtedly the most important week so far in the M&S saga.

TODAY: The other main activity today will be at another of Britain's largest retailers - J Sainsbury - as it holds its AGM.

The company may well have averted a shareholder uprising after it reversed a decision to award its departing chairman, Sir Peter Davis, £2.4m in shares last week. However, investors will still be keen to see new ideas from the incumbent management as to how it intends to get the group moving.

Elsewhere, investors in the Big Food Group, the owner of the Iceland retail chain, will be hoping to hear news of an improvement in trading conditions as the company reports its first-quarter results. At its last update in May, the management conceded that sales were still on the slide.

Results: Interims - St Modwen Properties. Trading Statements - Big Food Group. AGMs - J Sainsbury. Strategy update - Marks & Spencer.

TOMORROW: Investors in EMI will have their first chance to question the new pay package of Alain Levy, the company's head of its recorded music division. In an attempt to keep Mr Levy in post for another five years, his salary has increased by 30 per cent, and his potential bonus entitlement has increased from two to three times his basic wage. Many institutional shareholders think that Mr Levy is one of the best things to happen to EMI, but will private investors be convinced that he is worth the multimillion pound package he now earns?

Results: No major companies reporting. AGMs - EMI Group.

WEDNESDAY: Another dose of M&S will again dominate on Wednesday. However, there are also AGMs from two other FTSE 100 companies - BT and Land Securities - which will be of interest to the City. A series of new contracts and technological developments have boosted BT's shares in recent months. Shareholders will be listening out for more positive news. Property investors will be keeping a keen eye on Land Securities' AGM for the latest update on where the commercial sector is heading.

Results: No major companies reporting. AGMs - BT Group, Icap, Land Securities, London Stock Exchange, Marks & Spencer.

THURSDAY: More retail action on Thursday as Burberry holds its AGM. In May, the group said it expected strong sales growth in the autumn and winter seasons. Investors will be keen to hear how its summer is progressing. Elsewhere, investors in Dairy Crest will be hoping for news of improved trading after the company's profits warning in April. While the shares now come with an attractive dividend, which is well covered, they are trading more than 20 per cent below their February highs. Shareholders will want reassurances that the company has stemmed its decline in sales. Center Parcs, the holiday village group, reports its first set of full-year results as a public company on Thursday. With occupancy running at 94 per cent, shareholders will be fairly happy with the company's progress. There may be news of a fifth new UK site.

Results: Center Parcs. AGMs - Big Food Group, Burberry, Dairy Crest Group.

FRIDAY: Investors in British Land will be hoping for an update on the search for a new chief executive at its AGM. John Ritblat, currently both chairman and chief executive, has agreed to relinquish one of his roles, and had hoped to make an announcement on his replacement before the meeting. However, the appointment was held up after the front-runner, Philip Yea, a former finance director of Diageo, decided to go to 3i, the investment group.

Mr Ritblat's son Nick has ruled himself out of the race, leaving shareholders in the dark as to who is now leading the race.

Results: No major companies reporting. AGMs - British Land, Electrocomponents.

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