UK giants in oil and media to report in big week for markets

Surge in FTSE 100 to be tested by figures from major players including BP, Shell, Sky and Pearson
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The Independent Online

Investors will hope that results this week from some of the FTSE 100's biggest names, including oil giants BP and Shell, don't scupper the surge in in the blue chip index, which has rocketed by 30 per cent since March.

The FTSE 100 posted a gain of more than 4 per cent last week closing at 4576 points on Friday despite the release of worse than expected growth figures. The leading index is now enjoying its best run since January 2004. But this week is likely to test the solidity of the rally with 15 of the index's biggest names delivering updates.

BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, issues second quarter results on Tuesday with analysts looking for evidence of momentum from the company's new projects and cost cutting programme. Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell's new chief, Peter Voser, delivers his first numbers since stepping up from the finance director's berth earlier this month. Both BP and Shell have recently benefited from the rise in the price of oil, thought to have been buoyed by an increase in Chinese demand and a weak US dollar.

The coming week will also see eagerly anticipated numbers from three of the British media sector's darlings, Rupert Murdoch's Sky, publisher Reed Elsevier and Pearson Group, owner of the Financial Times newspaper.

Full year numbers from Sky and interim figures from Pearson are expected to show sharp declines in advertising revenues, with Pearson's FT publishing unit, which includes the flagship title as well as the Economist and Investor's Chronicle, likely to see its operating profit more than halved to £13m.

Sam Hart, an analyst at the stockbroker Charles Stanley, said the market was expecting a solid set of numbers from Sky. "There have been few signs to date that the business is being impacted by the economic downturn. It is probably benefiting from the tough economic environment, in which hardpressed consumers are seeking inexpensive entertainment in their homes."

All eyes will be on Reed Elsevier's new chief executive, Ian Smith, the former boss at housebuilder Taylor Woodrow, who took over the reins from Crispin Davis earlier this year. Mr Smith is expected to present a new strategic review of the firm this week.

Ahead of the Bank of England's interest rate decision, which is once again expected to keep the cost of borrowing on hold, other companies reporting include the mining giant Anglo American, led by Cynthia Carroll. The firm, which delivers first half numbers, is currently the subject of a merger bid by Xstrata. Anglo's newly appointed chairman, Sir John Parker, recently said the bid was proving a "distraction to management".

Other companies reporting include pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca which delivers second quarter figures on Thursday, while BG Group, Inchcape, British American Tobacco and BAE Systems all announce numbers in one of the summer's busiest weeks.

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