The week ahead: School's out, but head boys keep the City in detention

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The Independent Online

The companies that dominate the FTSE 100 are reporting this week, with oil majors, banks, pharmaceutical giants and Vodafone - the world's largest mobile phone company - all stepping up. The six biggest blue chips updating investors have a combined value of £459bn.

BP kicks off the march of the heavyweights with second-quarter numbers, while Shell, which recently underwent a historic shift to become a single company run by one board, follows later in the week.

Both are expected to show that while everyone else frets over the price of crude, the record highs continue to bolster their numbers. Net profits at BP, led by Lord Browne, are likely to come in at $5.5bn (£3.2bn), up from last year's $4.1bn.

Analysts at Merrill Lynch are predicting a bumper second quarter for the global oil sector, with aggregate earnings coming in at a record $22.1bn, up 4 per cent on the previous quarter and a massive 49 per cent on the same period last year.

Vodafone, meanwhile, updates on trading. The market will want confirmation that organic growth is on target as well as any positive noises about the mobile giant's performance in Japan.

Vodafone is not the only telecoms group reporting, however. France Telecom - owner of Orange - publishes numbers across the Channel, while BT posts first-quarter results back home. Most analysts expect a reasonable set of figures but a number remain concerned about the threat posed by the unbundling of the local loop.

On Thursday, investors will hear from all three FTSE 100 drugs companies: GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Shire Pharmaceuticals. It has not been an easy few months for the sector, with US authorities, in particular, highlighting a number of concerns about individual drugs, so analysts will want to hear reassuring noises about the pipeline of new releases.

Reckitt Benckiser, owner of a host of household products, from Lemsip to Harpic loo cleaner, also has numbers out.

The banks' reporting season, meanwhile, gets under way, with numbers from online offering Egg, Northern Rock and Lloyds TSB. Overseas, and Banco Santander Central Hispano, the new owner of Abbey, is also reporting.

Media is well represented alongside the banking, oil, telecoms and drugs sectors. Pearson, the Financial Times owner, has interim numbers out. Its profitability is heavily slated towards the second half but analysts will still, at this interim stage, want to see clear signs of an improvement at its Penguin book division and at the FT. A strong outlook for the US schools market would also be appreciated.

Trinity Mirror also has numbers out, as does Reed Elsevier, while Reuters will publish details of a new cost-cutting plan alongside its interim results.

Away from media and on to some of the more enjoyable things in life - chocolate and booze. Cadbury Schweppes is likely to report a 6 per cent jump in interim pre-tax profits, to £530m. The primary driver will be the Americas, where the group has been enjoying sturdy performances in both confectionery and beverages.

There is growing speculation that the group could spin off its European beverage arm. UBS analyst Alan Erskine noted in recent research: "As we regard these operations as strategically non-core, such a move would not surprise us." UBS believes the division could be sold for around £1.7bn, with the proceeds used to pay down debt. Yet others believe the group could safely spin out the entire drinks arm in a multi-billion-dollar deal.

But those hoping for an update this week will be disappointed. Instead, the sensible money is on the results of the strategic review being detailed at the annual investor presentation in October.

Meanwhile, soon-to-be drinks giant Pernod Ricard - Allied Domecq's new French owner - will update on sales for the last 18 months (the one-off unusual time scale is due to a change in the year end). The London market will also wave goodbye to Allied Domecq, which delists.

Pernod is not the only overseas company reporting, however; like the UK, it is a busy week on mainland Europe, with Peugeot, defence giant EADS, Siemens, Deutsche Bank and Volkswagen, which has been rocked recently be allegations of bribery, all addressing investors.

In the US, meanwhile, the newsflow eases off after a jam-packed month, but those still to issue results include American Express, Amazon.com, Starbucks and Exxon Mobil.

Yet with the many blue chips reporting back home, coupled with a sprinkling of updates from retailers - Carphone Warehouse, for example, updates on first-quarter sales - the focus will be firmly Citywards.

CALENDAR

Tomorrow 25

UK: Results: (final) Pearson; (interim) Domino's Pizza UK & Ireland, EQ Group, TV Commerce Holdings; (second quarter) Reckitt Benckiser.

Tuesday 26

UK: Results: (F) Games Workshop Group; (I) Cadbury Schweppes, Cookson Group, Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group, Plusnet, Reuters, Zetex; (first quarter) Yell Group; (Q2) BP.

Wednesday 27

UK: Results: (F) PKL Holdings; (I) ARC International, Croda International, Egg, Electric World, Flomerics Group, Prudential, RAC, United Business Media, Wolfson Microelectronics; (Q2) BG Group.

Thursday 28

UK: Results: (F) Homestyle Group; (I) Alliance Unichem, Bede, Capita Group, Elementis, Exel, Legal & General, Liberty International, National Express Group, Northern Rock, Reed Elsevier, Rolls-Royce, Trinity Mirror; (Q1) Alterian, BT Group; (Q2) Amvescap, AstraZeneca, Autonomy Corp, British American Tobacco, CSR, GlaxoSmithKline, Royal Dutch Shell, Shire Pharmaceuticals.

Friday 29

UK: Results: (F) Zetar; (I) Flying Brands, Lloyds TSB Group, St James's Place Capital, WH Ireland Group.

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