The Week Ahead: Amlin to impress as storms stay away
Monday 19 August 2013
It's been a mixed reporting season so far for companies in the Lloyd's of London insurance market. Although underwriting performances have been good – helped by a lack of natural catastrophes in the Atlantic – investment returns have been lower, impacting profits.
Amlin is one of the largest insurers operating in the 325-year-old market and becomes the latest to report today when it is expected to reveal pre-tax profits of £161m, compared with £185m last year. Despite the fall, the combined ratio is expected to be an impressive 85.5 per cent. This industry standard measures underwriting profitability, with figures below 100 reflecting a profit – the lower the better. Analysts reckon the group will also increase its dividend from 7.5p a share to about 7.9p.
Results/Updates: Amlin, Bovis Homes, Clarkson, Kingspan.
BHP Billiton's chief executive Andrew Mackenzie would have liked to have presented his first full-year results under brighter circumstances, but is likely to be quizzed by investors on allegations of breaches of US anti-corruption law. The miner warned last week that it could face charges from US authorities, some of which relate to corporate hospitality laid on for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Not that the results themselves are likely to cheer up shareholders. Most of the major miners have suffered due to the global economic struggle over the past year, and BHP is likely to fall short of last year's revenue of $72.2bn (£46.3bn).
Rival Glencore Xstrata will issue its first half-year results since merging in May. Profit is expected to come in just south of $6bn. There should also be some updates on the sales processes and cost savings that have already been made in the combined group's first three months.
Results/Updates: BHP Billiton, Glencore Xstrata, CRH, Persimmon, Cairn Energy, John Wood Group, John Menzies.
Could shares in STV prove a canny punt on the referendum on Scottish independence which is coming up next year? The commercial broadcaster north of Hadrian's Wall and maker of such programmes as Catchphrase, Antiques Roadshow and the ITV drama The Poison Tree unveils half-year figures on Wednesday. Of more interest perhaps than the headline profit, which is expected to show a modest dip on last year's £7m before tax, will be whether management feels confident enough to announce that it will resume dividend payments in 2014. These were suspended in 2007 when STV had expanded too far, too fast. But that's history. The business is now clearly focused, and will certainly have plenty to broadcast about in the run-up to the referendum. The outcome does not matter because the Scottish government has already promised it will keep its licences.
Results/Updates: Ark, Fortune Oil, Glanbia, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Hochschild Mining, PPHE Hotels, STV, UK Commercial Property Trust.
Costain is expected to shrug off the disappointment of its failed merger with May Gurney at its interim results, with deals such as upgrading Thames Water's network and overhauling power lines in the South East expected to have boosted its order book. Investec expects full-year profits of £22.7m, down slightly from £29.5m in 2012. Liberum reckons it is still a takeover target after its merger with May Gurney in April was trumped by a bid from Kier.
Results/Updates: Arm, Carillion, Costain, IMI, Kazakhmys, London Capital, Premier Oil, Primary Health, Sportech.
The UK's improving economic fortunes will take centre stage on Friday as the latest growth figures overshadow a quieter day for City updates. The Office for National Statistics' initial estimates showed a 0.6 per cent advance for the wider economy between April and June – twice as fast as the opening quarter of the year. City economists have pencilled in no change in the ONS's second stab but, given the steady stream of upbeat data in recent weeks, many consider the chances of a pleasant surprise more likely. Investec points out that quarterly construction growth has been revised up from 0.9 per cent to 1.4 per cent. The ONS also based its estimate on a 0.1 per cent decline in the UK's services sector in June – an assumption that looks cautious given the strength of industry surveys for the month. "On balance, we expect a small upward revision to GDP to 0.7 per cent," Investec chief economist Philip Shaw said. Meanwhile, household spending is set to rise for the seventh quarter in a row.
Results/Updates: Henry Boot, Afren.
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