The Week Ahead: Wolseley poised to build on past success

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Brokers are convinced that today's annual results from Wolseley will see the building materials giant boast of yet another record year. UBS was among those ushering investors into the stock last week, helping it rise to a new all-time high of 925.5p on Friday.

We know that Wolseley has benefited from the strong residential housing markets on both sides of the Atlantic over the past 12 months. But given the latest evidence of a slowdown in the UK - the recent profit warned from thehouse builder Countryside Properties certainly rattled the Square Mile - investors will be asking tough questions about the prospects for Wolseley's operations in Britain.

Analysts forecast the group to deliver pre-tax profits of about £590m, up from £455m, and a rise in total dividends to 24.3p a share from 21.2p. The US is Wolseley's biggest market, accounting for 60 per cent of total sales, and investors should not be surprised to see a strong performance from the group's plumbing business over there.

Today: Full-year results from Manchester United will see its management grilled on their thoughts with regard to the intentions of Malcolm Glazer. In August dealing rooms were awash with speculation that the US entrepreneur was poised to buy the 29 per cent stake owned by the Irish racing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus. Given that he already controls 19 per cent of the Premiership club, that would have sparked a full takeover bid.

In terms of the pure financials at Manchester United, City analysts forecast little excitement. Profits before player trading are expected to be little changed on the £50m registered last year.

Elsewhere, the performance of Close Brothers' market making division, Winterflood Securities, is likely have been a drag on the performance of the merchant bank over the past year. To blame are weak trading volumes. But the continued recovery in asset management and corporate finance should have more than made up for this and so Close Brothers is forecast to deliver full-year pre-tax profits of £113m, up from £85m. Analysts at Gerrard, the stock broker, believethe introduction of new products will have helped the group's asset management business secure £600m of extra funds to manage.

Results: Full year - Close Brothers; Manchester United; Quadnetics; Wolseley. Interims - Regal Petroleum; Pixology; Johnston; Alexon; Alizyme.

Tomorrow: Results: Full year - Centaur Holdings; Evesta Telecom. Interims - Atrium Underwriting; Fortune Oil; Havelock Europa; Maiden Group; Clinton Cards. Trading statements - Emap.

Wednesday: Those who participated in the placing of Baugur and Tom Hunter's stake in House of Fraser this month will be hoping that interim results from the retailer do not deliver any nasty surprises.

The combined holding of the Scottish businessman and Icelandic retailer accounted for more than 23 per cent of HoF's share capital. It was sold to institutional investors and put an end to two years of takeover speculation. Now those new investors will be hoping HoF delivers the widely predicted £1.3m reduction in first-half losses to £2.6m.

Brokers hope that HMV's trading statement will shed more light on the music retailer's plans for digital downloading. There has been concern that this many prove to be an expensive move for the company. Investec Securities tips the update to dispel such anxiety and stresses that the costs of an investment in music downloading is unlikely to influence HMV's ability to return cash to shareholders.

The broker forecasts like-for-like sales growth to be at about the 1.4 per cent seen in the first eight weeks of the year. Valued at just 9.9 times this year's estimated earnings, Investec views HMV shares as among the cheapest in the mid-cap retail space and expects them to outperform in the coming months.

Results: Full year - Finsbury Food; Dickinson Legg. Interims - Watermark; Symphony Plastics; Lidco; Kesa Electricals; House of Fraser. Trading statements - HMV.

Thursday: mmO2 is expected to deliver a robust interim trading update. Analysts tip the mobile phone group to indicate that it is on course to deliver its target of 7 to 10 per cent revenue growth in the UK this year. In the longer term the only thing that could spoil the party at mmO2 is competition from rivals. There has been growing unease among analystswith regard to this issue and it will be down to the group's management to calm such worry.

Results: Full year - ADVFN; Minco. Interims - Dana Petroleum; Empire Interactive. Trading statements - mmO2.

Friday: Results: Full year - Waterman; Gourmet Holdings. Interims - none.

Economics Diary

TODAY: UK - Mortgage commitments (Aug), Gordon Brown addresses Labour conference.

TOMORROW: World Bank demands more cash to help firms in poor nations, UK - Business investment (Q2). France - Producer price inflation (Aug).

WEDNESDAY: UK - GDP Q2 (final revision), Consumer credit (Aug), GfK consumer confidence (Sep), CBI Retail sales survey (Sep). US - GDP Q2 (final revision). IMF World Economic Outlook.

THURSDAY: Eurozone business/consumer confidence (Sep). Eurozone inflation (Sep)

FRIDAY: Meeting of G7 finance ministers. UK - Manufacturing PMI (Sep)

Japan - Unemployment (Aug).

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