The Week Ahead: investors in no mood to celebrate

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The Independent Online

The August bank holiday means it is a shortened week for the City, with among the companies updating the market as it releases its first interim results on Wednesday since the completion of the merger between PartyGaming and Austria's Bwin in March.

Judging by its share price, the tie-up has hardly been welcomed by investors – the online gaming group has dropped by nearly 50 per cent since then. However, UBS believes the update could see it move even lower and the broker's analyst Simon Whittington is predicting a "lacklustre" set of figures. received a boost in June from the news that one of its biggest rivals, Full Tilt Poker, had had its license suspended, but Mr Whittington – who is expecting total revenues for the first-half of the year of €425m (£375m) – says that although it will have picked up a "significant" amount of users as a result, "the cost of these players is likely to be high".

He instead believes the benefit will be seen over the rest of the year, when the analyst says the synergies from the merger will also begin to show. He predicts, therefore, that the company's "profits should be more second-half weighted than usual".

Panmure Gordon's analysts are slightly more bearish, expecting revenue for the period of €410m, but they still feel its stock deserves a "buy" rating, saying the upcoming €75m share buyback programme – announced back in June – "should act as a positive catalyst for the shares".


Bovis Homes issued a trading update last month, in which it revealed it was on track to meet its targets for the year, so its interim results today are unlikely to contain many surprises. With Deutsche Bank's Glynis Johnson saying all the important figures have already been announced, the analyst will instead be focusing on comments regarding its recent trading as well as how it sees the state of the housing market in 2012. "The contribution of new land to future earnings momentum and to Bovis's ambition for its 100 active sites in 2013 ... should also be a key area of questioning," she adds.

Results/Updates: Afren, Bovis Homes, Computacenter, Lamprell, Perform and Regus.


Bunzl announces its first-half figures on Wednesday, with JP Morgan Cazenove noting that "typically the stock rallies on the back of reassuring results ... and can then drift in between due to the lack of newsflow".

The broker feels the company's operations in the UK and Ireland hold the greatest risk of disappointing, citing "ongoing sluggish GDP data", but says there is certainly some possibility for its units elsewhere to offset this.

Results/Updates: Bunzl, and JKX Oil & Gas.


It has been only a month since Spirit made its debut on the markets after being spun out of Punch Taverns, and today is its first opportunity to update the market as an independent. Spirit consists of Punch's managed pubs as well as more than 500 of its better-performing leased sites – the aim is to turn around 100 of the latter into the former, so any comments on this in its pre-close trading update will be interesting.

As for Spirit's full-year numbers, Shore Capital is expecting a £7m rise in profit-before-tax to £48m, noting that the group already revealed a 5.7 per cent increase in like-for-like sales over the 40 weeks up until the end of May.

Intriguingly, Punch – which has been relegated to the small-cap index – announces its full-year trading update on the same day, prompting some comparisons between the two.

Elsewhere in the leisure sector, Thursday also sees the Restaurant Group unveil its first-half figures. Numis Securities' Douglas Jack is expecting profit-before-tax for the period to climb 4 per cent to £25.4m, saying the company – whose brands include Frankie & Benny's – will have benefited from both a recovery in cinema attendance and a large increase in London airport footfall.

Another updating the market is Go-Ahead with its full-year results. In its pre-close update in June the transport company said it expected to beat expectations with its operating profit for the 12 months. Panmure Gordon's James Cooke believes profits from its bus operations to have increased by more than 10 per cent, while its rail unit will see an even larger jump of 20 per cent. The analyst warns, however, that the outlook statement is likely to be wary "to reflect the uncertain medium-term economic outlook."

Results/Updates: Go-Ahead, Hays, Punch Taverns, Spirit Pub Company and The Restaurant Group.


Results/Updates: No major companies due to report.

Economics Diary


UK: no significant data due;

Minutes of US Federal Open Market Committee for the Augustdeliberations.


UK: GfK consumer confidence barometer; US Chicago purchasing managers' index; US crude oil inventories; US factory orders.


UK: Manufacturing purchasing managers' index for August; US ISM manufacturing purchasing managers' index; US monthly unemployment claims.


UK: Construction purchasing managers' index for August; US monthly non-farm payrolls data.