The Week Ahead: Can Sainsbury's weather the gathering storm?

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The Independent Online

All eyes will be on supermarket chain J Sainsbury on Wednesday, as it publishes its full-year results and gives an indication of how Britain's retailers are faring in the face of the economic slowdown. JP Morgan says that more important than last year's numbers will be the company's outlook for the year ahead.

"We feel that Sainsbury's trading slowdown relative to the market should be a cause for concern," the broker said in a recent preview note. "Were this relative performance to continue in more deflationary times, we would expect downside to earnings estimates."

UBS, while predicting a 26 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to £480m, shares similar concerns, noting that "investors will seek some reassurance about Sainsbury's ability to weather a more difficult environment without any erosion to its competitive position".

TODAY: Security specialist G4S is due to publish a first-quarter trading statement and UBS expects it to report organic sales growth of 8 per cent. The broker added that while the emerging markets division is likely to perform the best, posting organic sales growth of around 15 per cent, "even relatively mature developed markets like the US and UK [are expected to show] organic growth rates of at least 5 per cent and, in the case of the US guarding business, possibly even close to 10 per cent".

Results/Updates: HSBC, RM, Southern Cross Health-care and G4S.

TOMORROW: Results/ Updates: Enterprise Inns, Serco, VT Group, Greggs.

WEDNESDAY: The housebuilder Barratt Developments is due to publish an interim management statement and, after recent updates by Bovis Homes and Persimmon, UBS expects the market to focus on its order book. "We expect the order book trend to have deteriorated since the last time Barratt gave an update," the broker said. "We expect Barratt to announce (1) reduced working capital investment and slower site openings going forward, and (2) effective withdrawal from the land market (over and above committed land buying)."

Also on Wednesday, Com-pass is due to publish its interim results. Evolution Securities expects pre-tax profits to grow by 25 per cent to £280m. The broker said: "The trading update at the end of March indicated that the group had performed ahead of expectations. Organic revenue growth is likely to be [more than] 5 per cent, and margins should be 50 basis points higher, suggesting that the group has offset the food price inflation issue."

Evolution added that while the UK, where growth is expected to be flat, rem-ains a key problem area, there is likely to be news of good progress elsewhere.

Results/Updates: Land Sec-urities, Johnston Press, Compass, Barratt Developments and J Sainsbury.

THURSDAY: The Indian mining giant Vedanta Resources is due to publish its full-year results. UBS is forecasting $2.821bn in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

Beyond the numbers, analysts expect the focus to fall on any updates on discussions with the Indian government over the purchase of minority stakes in BALCO and Hindustan Zinc; the possible sell-down of a stake in Sterlite Power to fund growth; progress on attaining bauxite mining permits in Lanjigarh; and on any guidance on capex spend for the next financial period.

The nightclub operator Luminar is due to publish its preliminary results. Evolution is forecasting £30m in adjusted pre-tax profits, 34.4p in earnings per share and 17.2p in dividends per share. The broker said. "Management has been through tough times before and we remain confident that the quality of the estate and management's experience can guide it through any worsening of trade."

Results/Updates: Barclays, BT, National Grid, Luminar and Vedanta Resources.

FRIDAY: British Airways is expected to issue its second profits warning of the year. The airline is due to publish its preliminary results and analysts, mindful of the impact of the rising price of oil, expect the company to warn of the increasing pressure on its business. Crude oil for June delivery swung to a new record past $126 per barrel last week, and analysts at Goldman Sachs say the possibility of $150-$200 per barrel is "increasingly likely" in the next 6-24 months, suggesting an extended period of gloom for the sector: aircraft fuel makes up between a third and a half of an airline's bills and BA has already warned that every dollar on the oil price wipes £18m off its operating profit.

In addition to the oil problem, which might otherwise have been ameliorated by increased fuel surcharges, Cazenove recently highlighted some of BA's other headaches.

"After two increases this year, BA's fuel surcharges are now some 30 to 35 per cent higher than they were at the end of last year," the broker said, "However, we remain cautious about BA's ability to hold on to the full benefit of these increases given the operational challenges faced at Heathrow's Terminal 5 and in the face of a perceptible weakening in consumer confidence in the UK."

Ladbrokes is due to publish an interim management statement and, according to Evolution Securities, the near-term outlook for the company remains "worrying".

Results/Updates: British Airways and Ladbrokes.

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