Business Information Service: This week

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The Independent Online
MONDAY: Continuing bread price wars and discounting in Irish food retailing are likely to result in disappointing interim profits at Associated British Foods. Analysts are looking for first-half profits of between pounds 162m and pounds 175m, against pounds 175.2m last time.

EC and Efta finance ministers will meet in Luxembourg to discuss measures to promote economic growth.

TUESDAY: Hammerson Property's final could be sliced by at least 22 per cent, and the dividend cut in half to 10p, despite tentative signs of recovery in the property market. Forecasts are for profits of around pounds 43m, after pounds 55.5m in 1991.

The CBI Distributive Trades survey should show further evidence of rising optimism in the retail sector.

Britain's public sector borrowing requirement for March is expected to record an pounds 8bn deficit, which would bring the PSBR for the 1992/3 fiscal year in line with the Chancellor's Budget forecast.

WEDNESDAY: The Russian central bank will host the second International East/West Banking Congress, where economic co-operation will be discussed.

THURSDAY: The market expects interim pre-tax profits down 17 per cent at pounds 25m at Albert Fisher, the food group. The downturn reflects a poor performance in European fresh produce and a swing in the net interest position from pounds 4.4m receivable to pounds 1m payable due to acquisitions and adverse currency movements.

An anticipated 28 per cent fall to pounds 1.3m in final profits at Austin Reed comes after a difficult year for retailers, although the sales drop in continuing businesses should be limited to 3 per cent. Gross margins have held up, however, and the company should end the year with gearing steady at 20 per cent.

UK unemployment is expected to rise by 25,000 in March, following the surprise fall of 22,000 the previous month. February average earnings should show a rise of 4.5 per cent, compared to 4.75 per cent in January, while unit wage costs are expected to show a 1.3 per cent drop in the three months to February after a 0.6 per cent fall in the three months to January.

FRIDAY: UK retail sales data for March is expected to show a yearly rise of 3.5 per cent, up from 2.4 per cent in February. The market expects the monthly figures to be unchanged, compared with a 0.2 per cent rise the previous month.

UK net new building society commitments for March should provide another encouraging signal of revival in housing, with the market median standing at pounds 3.3bn. This compares with pounds 2.7bn in February.

The March M4 lending figure is predicted to go up by pounds 1.3bn, after a pounds 0.7bn rise in February. The monthly rise is expected to be 0.7 per cent (0.6 per cent the previous month), giving a yearly rise of 3.6 per cent, up from 3.3 per cent.

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

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