The Week Ahead: Time to check out Tesco and Morrison's

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The Independent Online

It is a supermarket sweep for investors this week, with William Morrison and Tesco publishing their interim results tomorrow.

It is a supermarket sweep for investors this week, with William Morrison and Tesco publishing their interim results tomorrow.

Tesco is expected to have maintained its lead in the market and may well also announce a move into the mortgage arena. The supermarket group is expected to report first-half pre-tax profits of between £760m and £800m, an increase of as much as 17 per cent on last year. Be prepared, however, for a modest slowing in sales, given there was no repeat of last year's bumper demand for barbecues and outdoor food and goods.

Morrison's, meanwhile, has been stuck, rummaging around in the bargain bin, trying to make its acquisition of Safeway pay off. Investors will be desperate to see if sales are starting to improve at Safeway after the profits warning earlier this year. There should also be news on its sell-off of Safeway stores, which could overlap with Tesco's announcement. Tesco is thought to have been in talks to buy more than 10 stores for about £100m.

Today: Cigarette companies have been warning of slumping sales in Germany in the past few months, so there will be keen interest in a trading statement from Imperial Tobacco today. Germany is one of its main markets, and heavy tax increases there have led to smokers choosing cheaper brands and fuelled a rise in smuggling. In April, Imperial said that it would maintain profitability by increasing prices, but conditions in Europe may have deteriorated more than expected.

Results: Full year - Trace Group; Ricardo. Interims - 3DM Worldwide; Ashtenne Holdings; Burren Energy; Chaucer Holdings; Cyprotex; Torex Retail; WILink; Zi Medical.

Tomorrow: Is Harry Potter still casting his spell over the British book-buying public? Bloomsbury Publishing is likely to turn in another strong performance, despite no new Harry Potter title, stressing it is not solely reliant on the teenage wizard. Analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein are expecting pre-tax profits of £3.9m, up more than 7 per cent. The paperback version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published in July, which should provide a boost for second-half earnings.

Results: Interims - 4Imprint; Acambis; Alea; Bloomsbury Publishing; Concurrent Technologies; Fitzhardinge; Gyrus; Highland Gold; JKX Oil & Gas; Medical Solutions; Metalrax; William Morrison Supermarkets; Tesco.

Wednesday: Smiths Group, the engineering, aerospace and medical systems business, has been through a series of downgrades, thanks to volatile trading patterns and a slump in global business. The City is, however, expecting some improvement in the underlying business, with brokers hoping to see steady aerospace sales and a pickup in the civil aviation business. Profits should at least match the £349m made last year. But of greater interest will be the strategy statement. Investors will want to know whether a large-scale acquisition is likely - the company spent £220m on a number of small, bolt-on acquisitions last year, but still has £1bn of financial firepower.

Expect plenty of bunting in bland and boxy housing estates up and down Britain on what should be Barratt Developments' twelfth consecutive year of growth. The residential housebuilder has indicated that profits for the year should be ahead of earlier expectations on the back of record sales growth, and investors are banking on a chunky dividend to celebrate. The new forecast is for pre-tax profits of between £350m and £365m. But Barratt will also have to provide some assurances that the UK housing market can withstand rising interest rates.

Results: Full year - Barratt Developments; Smiths Group. Interims - Alkane Energy; Bede; Biofocus; Coutts Holdings; Goshawk Insurance; Peter Hambro Mining; Robotic Technology; Solitaire; Spring Group; Tenon; Wellington Holdings.

Thursday: SABMiller will be brewing up a story on its US beer business in Milwaukee. A trading statement from the South African brewer is expected to confirm that the Miller business it bought in 2002 is continuing on its turnaround course, with Miller Genuine Draft improving sales alongside Miller Lite. Its last report showed Miller volumes were up 2.8 per cent.

Amstrad should be showing some progress with its Sky+ set-top boxes and international sales. Evolution Securities is looking for pre-tax profits of £14.8m, a significant leap from £4.1m last year.

Results: Full year - Amstrad; NXT. Interims - Cape; Corin; Durlacher; Hardy Underwriting; Highbury House; Ottakar's; ServicePower Technologies; Sirius Financial; UCM Group.

Friday: Full year - Avanti Capital. Interims - none scheduled.

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