The Week Ahead: The crowd clamour for takeover news at Man Utd and SABMiller

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The Independent Online

With the Easter break looming, the City is looking forward to a four-day week. But before traders overpay for Easter outings, a number of key announcements and results to be dealt with.

With the Easter break looming, the City is looking forward to a four-day week. But before traders overpay for Easter outings, a number of key announcements and results to be dealt with.

As well as a rash of retailers either providing updates or announcing results, there could well be news on possible take- overs. Drinks giant SABMiller, owner of Peroni beer, will give details of trading over the past year. But the focus is likely to be on the consolidation sweeping the industry - be it actual or, as in most cases, rumoured.

SABMiller is a frontrunner to land Bavaria, the inappropriately named South American brewer. The controlling Santo Domingo family is considering various options for the Colombian business and these include a sale, which analysts believe could be for as much as $9bn (£4.7bn). Both SABMiller and Heineken are interested, so investors will be keen to gain any hints about how the process is going.

Also in the takeover theatre of dreams are investors in Manchester United. Once, like the club's ability to win trophies, Man Utd's results were a victory parade. The popularity of the brand soared around the world and the figures benefited. But now, just as on the pitch, things are not quite so simple.

The club has been stalked for some time by US billionaire Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American Football team, and the board is now waiting on his latest proposal. He is unlikely to make a move before Tuesday's interim results, but that won't stop interested parties speculating about the club's future.

It is understood that the Glazer camp is currently finishing due diligence and hoping to get a bid away before Easter - though this may yet be pushed back into April.

Aside from SABMiller and Man Utd, attention will be grabbed by the retailers, with J Sainsbury, Wm Morrison, Woolworths, Next and Kesa Electricals all addressing investors. There should also be developments at Allders, the collapsed department store chain. Over this weekend and into the working week, around 37 shops will stop trading - either as new owners such as Debenhams and Primark take control, or as stores that failed to find new owners are returned to the property landlords.

Some companies outside retail are worth keeping an eye on, too. These include United Utilities, Imperial Tobacco, cruise giant Carnival, and mmO2, which updates on trading.

Carnival hit the headlines earlier this year when MS Aurora, its 1,950-room, 76,000-ton cruise ship, broke down and its maiden voyage was aborted. The group has already said that the bill will come in at just over £26m, and has guided first-quarter earnings downwards.

Long-term, however, most in the City remain fans of the group and expectations are growing that February will have been a strong month for bookings.

Analysts are looking for positive news from United Utilities' non-regulated businesses, the core area for profits growth, when it provides a trading update. However, the biggest area of interest will be management's outlook for both group profits and dividends - though investors will probably have to wait until the finals in May.

As for Imperial Tobacco, investors will be looking for any further news on costs and an update on Germany, a key market for the group. Updates on the Irish and UK markets, where Imperial distributes Marlboro Lights, will also be sought following smoking bans and price increases.

In mainland Europe, the luxury sector continues to update investors, with news from Hermes International and Bulgari. Other foreign companies reporting include Ericsson, the football clubs Juventus and Ajax, German travel giant TUI - owner of Thomson - and, in the US, Oracle.

As for economics, just because the Budget is now behind us, that does not mean the news flow eases off. This week there will be updates on retail prices and inflation, the second revision to GDP and the CBI Industrial Trends Survey, as well as minutes from the Monetary Policy Committee's latest interest-rate-setting meeting. Gordon Brown will also be quizzed on his Budget.

It will, however, be the Americans who steal the show when the Federal Reserve meets to discuss the cost of borrowing. Most are expecting a quarter point rise, to 2.75 per cent.

In other words, short week or not, most will need the four-day break to get over what is shaping up to be a heavyweight four days at work.


Tomorrow 21

UK: Results: UK: Results: (final) Admiral, Bioprogress, Corporate Services, Development Securities, Enterprise, Forth Ports, John Laing, London & Associated Properties, Lookers, Medsea Estates, Oxford Biomedica, Pinewood Shepperton, Raven Mount, SmartFocus, TT electronics, Weir Group, WIN; (interim) Aero Inventory, Kier, Manganese Bronze, Wolseley; (first quarter) Carnival.

Tuesday 22

UK: Results: (F) Brixton, Chesnara, Cornwell Management Consultants, Evolution Group, Hat Pin, IQE, MacLellan Group, MTL Instruments, Oystertec, Spring Group; (I) Finsbury Food, Inventive Leisure, Manchester United, MJ Gleeson, Reed Health.

Wednesday 23

UK: Results: (F) Alkane Energy, Autologic, Cape, Charter, HHG, Kesa Electricals, Medical Solution, Next, Slough Estates, Symphony Plastic Technologies, Woolworths, Wm Morrison; (I) Barratt Developments.

Thursday 24

UK: Results: (F) Delta, Hardy Underwriting, Northern Racing, Omega International, Premier Oil, Songbird Estates; (I) Digital Classics.

Friday 25

UK: Results: Good Friday - London Stock Exchange closed.