The Week Ahead: Michael Page figures to reveal state of job market

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The Independent Online

The job market will be under the spotlight when the recruiter Michael Page International posts its half-yearly figures this morning.

The company issued a detail trading update in July, revealing £209.4m in gross profits for the first six months of this year, against £178.8m in the same period last year. Beyond that, analysts expect Michael Page to notch up £31m in half-yearly earnings before interest and tax, well above the £5.6m figure booked in the first six months of 2009.

Collins Stewart reckons this week's numbers could prompt its peers in the analyst community to upgrade their forecasts, arguing that, so far, the market seems to have underestimated the company's operational gearing.

That said, the broker remains cautious, citing the uncertain macroeconomic outlook and concerns about the prospect of further weakness in the euro, which could hit forecasts for the recruitment group.

Results/Updates: Michael Page International.


Results/Updates: EnQuest, Resolution, Gartmore, London Capital, Melrose Resources and Rok.


The car dealership company Lookers is expected to issue strong interim results, with analysts highlighting the upbeat trading update posted last month. The company said trading to the end of June was running "ahead of budget and the same period in the prior year", and raised hopes by saying that this week's figures were likely to "exceed" management expectations.

Taking its cue from the bullish comments, Panmure Gordon is forecasting £22.2m in half-yearly pre-tax profits, with 3.4p in earnings per share and an interim dividend of 0.7p.

"We anticipate the strong trading performance occurring across the board, with the parts business in particular continuing to deliver record results," the broker said, adding: "Cuts made to the cost base last year should also be beneficial to the bottom line, with more potentially to come through later this year. We also note the 25 per cent jump in fleet sales in the June SMMT [Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders] data, a market where we believe Lookers is taking market share."

Results/Updates: Xaar, Lookers, Hochschild Mining, Henderson and the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation.


Essar Energy, the energy group spun out of India's sprawling Essar conglomerate, is due to post its first set of interim results later this week. Deutsche Bank is looking for $335m (£215m) in first-half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, of which $238m (£153m) is forecast to come from Essar Oil and $97m (£62m) from Essar Power. Beyond that, the group is expected to post $112m (£72m) in pre-tax profits.

"We see Essar Oil as having benefited from stronger gross refining margins in the first half than expected earlier in the year, with margins in the second quarter particularly strong," the broker said. "Essar Power should generate relatively stable profitability throughout the course of the year."

Panmure Gordon is looking forward to a strong statement from PV Crystalox Solar, the silicon wafer manufacturer. The broker reckons that the update, and a strong outlook for the second half in particular, could underpin upgrades to consensus estimates.

"2011 remains a concern for the industry, but the company's conservative expansion plans and quality customer list suggest shipment growth and a more muted [decline in average selling prices] than the market," the broker said. It forecasts €11.9m (£9.75m) in pre-tax profits, with €11.7m (£9.6m) in earnings before interest and tax.

Also on Thursday, the oilfield services group Wellstream, which specialises in flexible pipes, is due to issue half-yearly figures. Numis is looking for earnings of 8p per share, based on £18.4m in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, and revenues of £136m.

"The key focus of Wellstream's interims will be on backlog growth, margins and capacity utilisation at [its] Newcastle [plant]," the broker said. "Recent trading statements have demonstrated growth in Wellstream's backlog from a low of £168m at the end of 2009, however we remain cautious on margin[s] due to low utilisation levels, overheads and redundancy payouts at Newcastle."

Numis said that, given Wellstream's market position in the Brazilian flexible pipe market, it remained confident of the company's ability to win further contracts from local major Petrobras, though it was worried about the prospect of pressure from the trinity of "new entrants, a less buoyant global market and material price inflation".

Results/Updates: Cineworld, CLS Holdings, Primary Health Properties, Hardy Oil & Gas, TT Electronics, Wellstream, PV Crystalox Solar and Essar Energy.


Results/Updates: Charles Taylor Consulting.

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