Business Information Service: This Week

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The Independent Online
MONDAY: No significant events are scheduled.

TUESDAY: Analysts expect final profits of pounds 23m, up 7 per cent, at FR Group, which has healthy order books in its defence and aviation markets. An increased dividend, up 5 per cent to 7p, is also on the cards.

The data for UK March PPI output should show evidence of the Budget increase in excise duties, with the average forecast indicating a rise of 7 per cent month on month. Sterling's firmer position during March is expected to result in a relatively modest monthly rise of 0.5 per cent in data for PPI input.

WEDNESDAY: Figures for UK February industrial production should rebound to show a monthly rise of 0.7 per cent, against a 0.3 per cent fall in January. Another rise in manufacturing output is expected.

THURSDAY: Excellent progress in Laura Ashley's UK and European markets will be marred by what analysts say will be a disastrous performance in the US. They expect the company to make final profits of pounds 1- pounds 2m, however, after incurring pounds 9.3m in pre-tax losses last time.

Net interest charges should fall to around pounds 1.6m, helped by strong cash flow in the first half and falling interest rates. Net debt is expected to have crept up from pounds 4.4m to pounds 5m, but an increased net dividend of 0.5p, up from 0.1p, is possible.

Analysts feel that Forte's final dividend should be cut because the sale of Gardner Merchant has not fully rescued the company from its tight financial position. They also believe there is insufficient cash flow to fulfil Forte's stated strategic aims and maintain adequate capital expenditure.

They predict that the final dividend will be slashed to 2.25p, compared with 7.16p in 1991/2, and say Forte has little to gain by avoiding this.

Blue Circle's final pre-tax profits will probably show a decline of about 31 per cent to pounds 96.5m as the cement company continues to get out of its highest risk operations in Africa and get into fast-growing European industries instead. A 73 per cent fall in earnings per share, from 15.3p to 4.2p, would leave an unchanged net dividend of 11.25p uncovered.

Meggitt, the engineering company, is expected to produce another above-average result for 1992, despite no sign of a let-up in the difficult trading environment. Final pre-tax profits of pounds 25.5m would represent an advance of 9 per cent on the previous year and the City is looking for a 4 per cent increase to 3.75p in the net dividend.

FRIDAY: Mortgage rate reductions should offset rising petrol and clothing prices in the UK March RPI data. The yearly rate is expected to remain unchanged at 1.8 per cent.

After exceptional growth in advertising revenue and dramatic cost-cutting, Thames TV's final pre-tax profits should show a 330 per cent improvement to pounds 35m. Earnings will soar from 4p to 41p, but an unchanged dividend of 7.5p is expected. The bottom-line figures will, however, be pegged back by a pounds 10m write-off.

Results: NatWest Securities. Median economic forecasts: MMS International.

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