Business Information Service: This week

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The Independent Online
MONDAY: A fall in sterling commodity and oil prices is expected for April, leaving seasonally adjusted UK producer input prices flat on the month. Underlying output price inflation is also expected to be unchanged at 2.6 per cent.

TUESDAY: A strong interim result should come from Avon Rubber, up about 34 per cent to pounds 5.5m, due to another good performance from its US subsidiary. UK results will show mixed fortunes, with progress at the Tyres division but bad news at Inflatables. Analysts say the company is on target for a good full year, with scope for the shares to outperform.

General Accident's first- quarter results should show a small profit of about pounds 5m, with an improvement in UK business despite flood and storm losses last year. The shares have underperformed by 8 per cent since last May, but things may be about to change.

The beer division will be the star performer at Vaux Group, which has doubled the size of its pub estate in the past two years. The hotels division is still under pressure, with room rates falling despite a pick-up in occupancy levels. The currency devaluation should help this year. Adjusted under FRS3, the new accounting standard, interim profits are expected to be pounds 9.4m ( pounds 15.2m last time).

WEDNESDAY: The success of recent drives to maximise sales and market share will be seen at Sainsbury's, reporting full-year profits up about 17 per cent to pounds 740m and a dividend up to 10p (8.75p). Sales growth should be around 13 per cent, with a 9 per cent contribution from new space.

Body Shop looks set for its first-ever decline in annual profits, and the market will be looking for reassurance that it is a temporary reverse. Profits will drop by around 17 per cent to pounds 21m, and all eyes will be on new managing director Geoff Marshall and what changes he may make. The dividend is expected to be held at 1.6p.

THURSDAY: Interim profits up about 14 per cent to pounds 27.5m at Burton will confirm its recovery, though the market will probably await further evidence. Margins are expected to be slightly up at the fashion multiples, and to have remained steady at Debenhams. The key to the bottom line is still cost cutting. Expect the dividend to remain at 1p.

Grand Metropolitan shares are now the cheapest in the sector, having underperformed the market by 8 per cent in the past three months because of the faltering US recovery. Interim profits slightly up at pounds 405m will be due largely to a strong performance in wines and spirits. The retail and food divisions are unlikely to sparkle.

FRIDAY: First-quarter figures from Unilever are expected to show that Europe's economic climate is not all doom and gloom, with profits up from pounds 393m to between pounds 420m and pounds 446m. Even in Germany, the consumer division is expected to make solid progress, and forecasters would not be surprised if a strong performance in North America took the company's figures even higher.

Results: NatWest Securities.

Median economic forecasts: MMS International.

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