The Week Ahead: Has Barr-Britvic deal bubble burst?

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The Independent Online


Investors in Irn Bru maker AG Barr will quiz management on why they're only sipping on the caffeinated, carbonated drink when they could quench their thirsts with a Fruit Shoot or a barley water. AG Barr holds its annual meeting at a time when Robinsons owner Britvic has started to distance itself from a merger that has come under close scrutiny from the Competition Commission (CC).

Last week, Britvic chief executive Simon Litherland outlined a £30m cost-cutting strategy that was not predicated on securing a deal with AG Barr, making the £40m of savings made through a merger less attractive.

The CC will announce its findings in July but Britvic, publicly, seems less convinced by the merits of the deal than it was previously. Market chatter does suggest there are plans to resuscitate a combination that would create one of Europe's biggest drinks companies. AG Barr investors will want to know if those rumours reflect the true intentions of both groups.

Results/Updates: Victrex, Volex Group and Westminster Group.


The floor-covering specialist Topps Tiles is set to highlight tough trading conditions in the home improvement sector by posting a sharp fall in half-year profits.

Along with the DIY giants Wickes and B&Q, Topps Tiles has been hit by the squeeze on big-ticket purchases and the extended wintry weather.

The 320-store chain has already guided towards pre-tax profits of £4.3m over the six months to the end of March, down from £5.6m last year. John Stevenson, the analyst at Peel Hunt, said the retailer's update on current trading will provide "clarity on any recovery although against tougher comparatives [in 2011-12], sales are likely to be trending short of our second-half target".

He added: "The risk to estimates remains on the downside." Topps' like-for-like revenue is expected to have decreased by 0.3 per cent over the 26 weeks. It's a busy week for the home improvement sector – B&Q owner Kingfisher, which has 1,025 stores in eight countries, updates on its first-quarter trading on Thursday.

Results/Updates: Brewin Dolphin, De La Rue, Scapa, Telford Homes, Topps Tiles and Torotrak.


Results from Severn Trent will be little more than a sideshow on Thursday as the City licks its lips at a £5.3bn potential bid for one of the UK's last remaining listed water companies. Canada's Borealis, the Kuwait Investment Authority and the Universities Superannuation Scheme, a UK pension fund, are circling Trent, which supplies water to more than 4.2 million households in the UK, and thought to be willing to pay up £23 a share. The board is busy bidding up the price, saying the offer "completely fails" to appreciate the value of the firm although Takeover Panel rules mean the bidders have until June 11 to make an offer. The results will be coy on the takeover activity although profits are likely to be flat at £504.6m as business water use declines and costs rise.

Analysts aren't expecting much, meanwhile, from B&Q owner Kingfisher as Britain's bitterly cold spring chills sales. Deutsche Bank is braced for a 13 per cent fall in retail profits to £140m although Credit Suisse is are looking on the bright side: "Spring is simply one month late and, given the softness of comps, much of the lost sales can be caught up."

Results/Updates: Kingfisher, Severn Trent and Tate & Lyle.


It's a quiet end to the week in terms of results, although there are be figures from LondonMetric.

The mid-cap real estate investment trust, formed by a merger of London & Stamford and Metric Property Investments, is unleashing its final results, and Numis Securities' Chris Spearing expects the group to have seen a "modest decline in NAV to 111p largely as a result of a modest decline in value of the non-London and retail assets".

The analyst only has a "hold" recommendation on the company despite noting it has "significantly underperformed" its peers recently. He adds that he continues "to see more upside elsewhere in the sector over the next few months".

Results/Updates: LondonMetric.