The Week Ahead: Tesco takes lead further with surge in profits

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The Independent Online

Recent market share data has shown that there is little reprieve for Tesco's competitors, with the group likely to have achieved sales growth of 11 per cent domestically and a whopping 27 per cent growth abroad.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein forecasts its pre-tax profits to soar to nearly £1bn for the first half, up to about £939m from £822m previously. It believes the City will be interested to know how management intends to hold on to the customer gains achieved in the UK and will certainly been keen to hear Tesco's view on the likely direction of consumer confidence in the run-up to Christmas.

Although Tesco shares have notched up a strong performance over the past 12 months, the German broker is convinced there will be for further gains.

TODAY: Despite the adverse fuel costs and some disruption from Hurricane Katrina, analysts expect Carnival to meet its earnings forecasts for the year.

The robust state of the cruise industry should be strong enough to help Carnival sail through short-term difficulties, the analysts predict. These include the fact that Carnival has had to charter several of its cruise ships to the US government, which is using them as temporary accommodation for people made homeless by the hurricane, and the fact the high oil prices has caused its fuel bill to soar.

Today's third-quarter results from the group are expected to see it deliver a 9 per cent rise in earnings.

Results: Full year - Albemarle & Bond; Avanti Screen Media; Provalis; Ricardo. Interims - Alizyme; Burren Energy; Chaucer Holdings; Pixology; Telit Communications.

TOMORROW: Annual results from Regent Inns will show that the new management team of the bars operator, led by Bob Ivell, has fully stabilised the business, which just a year ago was dangerously close to going under.

Investors can now expect the group to post a profit of about £10m for the year just gone.

However, the question now facing Regent is where it goes from here. Altium Capital believes Bob Ivell's main challenge is driving the company forward from a relatively weak financial position. It suggests there are little expansion opportunities within the existing Regent brands, making acquisitions a central part of any future strategy. However, the broker fears that there is little left for the group to buy after it failed to secure control of rival Urbium in July.

Altium said last week: "We could see the merits of a tie-up with Urbium but believe the Regent board was poorly advised and categorically failed to get the Urbium management team on side".

Altium takes the view that if Regent does not execute an acquisition soon, it will eventually be takeover itself.

Cairn Energy's update on the development of its Rajasthan project in India will be all-important to how the oil explorer's shares perform in the wake of its first half results. Analysts are expecting the company to give details of drilling at the southern end of the Rajasthan block, which Cairn estimates contains up to 1 billion barrels of oil. An update on progress at its Mangala development can also be expected.

Results: Full year - Centaur Holdings; Finsbury Food; Minerva; Regent Inns. Interims - BetonSports; Cairn Energy; CeNes Pharmaceuticals; Chorion; ExpoMedia Group; Tesco; Trafficmaster.

WEDNESDAY: Woolworths generates the bulk of its profits in the run-up to Christmas, so its first numbers are not that important. However, its strategy for the festive season is very significant and City analysts will certainly question Woolworths' management on this point.

The problem that the retailer faces is that it is squeezed between supermarkets - which are increasingly stocking DVDs, computer games and toys - and the high street specialists.

Results: Full year - Polaron. Interims - Capital & Regional; Paladin Resources; Restaurant Group; Woolworths.

THURSDAY: Smiths' annual results are every unlikely to contain any surprises given that the conglomerate issued an update to investors as recently as the start of last month. Williams de Broë predicts the group's results will be a bullish affair. In a preview piece of research last week, the broker said: "We expect an up-tempo presentation to be reflected in the company's share price. Hence, we maintain our buy recommendation." Smiths should deliver a 14 per cent rise in profits to £400m.

Results: Full year - NXT; Smiths Group. Interims - Ocean Wilsons; Ottakar's; Peter Hambro Mining.

FRIDAY: Results: Full year - None expected. Interims - Imagesound; Sherwood Group; Sterling Energy.