City File: Results eagery awaited

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BRITISH Airways' first-quarter results on Tuesday are eagerly awaited, partly because of what BA may say about the pick-up in air traffic since the Gulf war. Predicting the results is always tricky with BA, since small differences in costs or revenues can make huge differences to profits. Profit estimates range from pounds 85m to pounds 120m (against pounds 9m last time), hence the importance of what BA says about the underlying trading conditions.

So far, the indications are that while passenger numbers are picking up, they are in the cheaper seats. The lucrative business class has not recovered from last year's slump. There is also intense competition over the crucial north Atlantic routes.

BA's results will probably look good in comparison with those of most other international airlines, and it will be safe to assume that this year's dividend will rise. But in these markets, BA remains an investment for the strong-hearted.

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