Record number of companies to report on 'Super Thursday'

Improvements to FTSE corporate governance leads to 70 announcements next week

A record number of companies are rushing out results before next weekend's bank holiday, as the FTSE improves its corporate governance.

Among the businesses planning to announce profits are advertising agency WPP, drinks group Diageo, engineer IMI and Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury. Around 70 companies are reporting on what is being dubbed "Super Thursday".

Corporate governance watchdogs, such as the Financial Reporting Council, and leading investors have put pressure on companies to narrow the gap between interim and year-end results. Coupled with improved accountancy procedures, companies have published their results steadily earlier. A typical interim date is 30 June and many companies that used to reveal their profits in September have brought forward their announcements. Over the past decade, Diageo has brought forward publication by 10 days; IMI's results will be 15 days ahead of its 2001 statement.

Keith Bowman of investment managers Hargreaves Lansdown says: "The coming week sees the UK focus on half-year results from a raft of FTSE 100 and 250 constituents. For international companies, it is more of a barometer of the global economy than the UK market."

Among the big names reporting on Thursday are betting group William Hill, estate agent Savills, and car rental group Avis Europe. Results from mining groups Antofagasta, BHP Billiton and Kazakhmys, all FTSE 100 blue-chips, will reflect rising commodity prices.

Bovis Homes, Costain, Henry Boot, Persimmon and Amec will give an insight into the UK's housing and construction markets and early indications on the effect of public sector cuts.

"Bovis is more operationally geared to the South and South-east, which should protect it over some of its rivals," says Mr Bowman. "Diageo and WPP may see some of their Asia-focussed operations offsetting any problems in home markets."

Directors have been forced to return from family breaks ahead of the bank holiday. However, with share trading volumes low and many analysts still away, early results risk a volatile reaction.

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