The Week Ahead: The Russians are coming: bid rumours stoked up at Corus

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The Independent Online

Takeover rumours continue to swirl around Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus, with Evraz, Russia's largest steel producer, tipped as a possible bidder. So the former British Steel, which reports interim figures on Wednesday, will come under pressure to say whether there have been any approaches.

Roman Abramovich, Russia's richest man and the owner of Chelsea football club, has a 41 per cent stake in Evraz, ranked 13th in the world's list of producers. Brokers believe consolidation is inevitable, however, and another possible bidder for Corus is Severstal, the world's 15th-largest producer.

Broker Charles Stanley says a tie-up between Corus and another major producer would be good news for the group, giving it "access to iron ore and to emerging markets". Corus is expected to reveal an increase in profits, from £334m to £350m.

Staying with deals, and Spanish tobacco group Altadis posts interim results later this week. Of more interest than the numbers, though, is any update on its strategic review. While the full findings will not be announced until the autumn, rivals around the world are waiting anxiously for any hint that the company will go for a break-up, making it a prime takeover target.

Another company in the bid spotlight is Signet, the H Samuel jewellery chain. The half-year results are expected to show sales up by at least 5.2 per cent, driven by a strong performance in the US where the group operates more than 1,200 stores. At home, where it has just under 600 stores, trading has been more mixed.

Takeover interest has been fired by reports of a £2bn-plus bid from venture capitalists Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Apax. If successful, a break-up of the business is likely.

The future of the Hard Rock Cafe chain will be the main focus of attention when Rank reports its first-half results on Friday. Rank intends to concentrate on its gaming assets - bingo and provincial casinos - and hopes to raise around £570m from the sale of Hard Rock and Delux, which provides services to the film industry. Rank's first-half profits are expected to be around £44m against £42m last year. The modest rise is largely due to bingo taking a hit from the smoking ban and the World Cup, and the heatwave denting casino takings.

Drinks group Diageo is expected to produce full-year profits of around £2.1bn, up from £1.9bn. It is likely to say that premium brands such as Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff have done well, while lower-priced drinks, particularly in mainland Europe and Ireland, have not performed so strongly.

Elsewhere, support services group Serco delivers interim numbers. Broker Collins Stewart is forecasting profits of £52m, up 19 per cent on the previous year, and sales 16 per cent ahead at £1.25bn.

There is speculation that Serco is close to agreeing a deal to sell seven PFI ventures for around £70m, giving it the cash to bid for a slice of the UK's £70bn nuclear decommissioning programme. It has entered into a joint venture with US construction group Bechtel to explore sector opportunities.

Broker Investec is anticipating a "positive and upbeat presentation" from software group LogicaCMG when it publishes interims. The company recently announced the £882m acquisition of Nordic rival WM-Data, making it the second-largest IT services company in Europe by market value and puuting it within shouting distance of the FTSE 100.

But there have been worries about LogicaCMG's ability to absorb such a large acquisition and the management will be grilled over the likely savings. Brokers are sticking to a full-year profit forecast of around £186m, up from £107m.

On the economic front, commentators are hoping that comments due from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will shed light on the future of interest rates in the US. They were left unchanged earlier this month, so the markets are trying to work out what direction they will move, if at all, later this month.

Back home, the underlying strength of the housing market is expected to be underscored by official figures showing that mortgage lending in July was £9.2bn, a two-year high. In June it was £9bn.

And alongside home loans data, consumer credit figures should show a relatively modest rise of around £0.8bn as higher interest rates start to bite and people begin to ease back on their use of plastic.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 28

UK RESULTS: Bank holiday - no results scheduled.

Tuesday 29

UK RESULTS: (interim) Bunzl, First Dental Laboratories, Pilat Media Global, Quantica.

Wednesday 30

UK RESULTS: (final) GTL Resources, Homestyle, Morse; (I) Ark Therapeutics, Beazley, Corus, Cyprotex, Filtrona, IQE, James Fisher & Sons, Johnston Press, LogicaCMG, Molins, Signet, SMC.

Thursday 31

UK RESULTS: (F) Coffeeheaven International, Diageo; (I) Amec, Avis Europe, Axis-Shield, BBA, Churchill China, Hunting, Serco, Wellington Underwriting.

Friday 1

UK RESULTS: (I) Rank, Rightmove.

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