The Week Ahead: Positive update expected from WM Morrison

The supermarket chain WM Morrison is due to publish a first-quarter trading statement on Thursday and analysts are expecting a positive update.

"Although we expect a slight slowdown since Christmas, Morrison's like-for-like sales continue to lead the industry," said Citigroup, whose analysts forecast 6.5-7 per cent like-for-like growth, excluding petrol, for the 13 weeks to 4 May. "This is doubly impressive when one considers the minimal benefit from store extensions and from maturing space," the broker added.

Elsewhere, fuel sales account for around 20 per cent of the company's total sales, and the hike in the cost of petrol should help overall growth rates. The impact on profits, however, is expected to be minimal – as Citi points out, "petrol generates wafer-thin margins, so the boost to the bottom line will likely be limited".

TODAY: Results/Updates: RWS, Detica, Acal and E2V Technologies.

TOMORROW: United Utilities is due to publish preliminary results and the consensus from analysts is for full-year underlying pre-tax profits before exceptional items and IAS39 fair value adjustments of £462m. Consensus also forecasts 48.9p in earnings per share and 46.6p in dividend per share.

Also tomorrow, the aerospace, defence and automotive group Umeco is due to publish full-year results, and UBS expects the company to report revenue of £391m, compared to £334m last year, pre-tax profits of £25.1m, compared to £22.5m last year, and earnings per share of 35p, compared to 32p in 2007.

Beyond the figures, the broker is hoping management will clarify the impact of the Boeing 787 delays. The company is also expected to provide an update on how the Rolls-Royce contract extension has progressed.

Results/Updates: Delling, Hamworthy, Umeco and United Utilities.

WEDNESDAY: Kingfisher, the company behind the B&Q retail chain, is due to publish first-quarter results, with UBS forecasting £80m in group retail profits, compared to £89m last year.

"This year, a cold, early Easter is likely have negatively affected sales," the broker said. "Pressures on disposable income and the housing market have also intensified and thus the performance of non-seasonal lines will be a key area of focus," UBS added.

Sportingbet, the online gaming company, is due to publish third-quarter results and, beyond the numbers, the market will be keen for an update on the situation in Turkey. Last week, the company said some people related to its Turkish business had been detained by the local authorities, who also held two of its UK-based employees on vacation in the country. At the time, the company had not received any formal clarification on the matter. Management will no doubt be quizzed about the progress of events since.

Results/Updates: FKI, Wolfson Microelectronics, China Biodiesel, Sportingbet and Kingfisher.

THURSDAY: The chemicals group Johnson Matthey is due to publish preliminary results, and consensus figures drawn from 11 analyst estimates predict £258.7m in pre-tax profits, with 88.3p in earnings per share and 36.5p in dividend per share.

The equipment rental group VP is due to publish final results and Panmure Gordon is anticipating a "decent set" of figures.

"We expect most areas of the business to deliver significant progress from last year, with the possible exception of Torrent Trackside, which has been well flagged to investors," the broker said. "Following a reasonably robust outlook statement from Speedy Hire ... we would expect the same from VP."

Also on Thursday, Premier Farnell is due to publish first-quarter results and UBS is forecasting £200m in sales, up 9 per cent, £24.6m in earnings before interest, tax and amortisation, up 11 per cent, and earnings per share of 3.85p, up 18 per cent.

"Unlike peer Electrocomponents [or ECM], we do not expect [Premier] to be quite so cautious on recent trading, mainly because [its] UK business is more correlated to the electronics cycle, while ECM's is more correlated to UK manufacturing output," the broker said.

Results/Updates: WM Morrison, Severn Trent, Halfords, Pennon, Premier Farnell, VP and Johnson Matthey.

FRIDAY: The recruitment specialist SThree is due to publish a trading statement for the first half, and, as Panmure Gordon points out, "all eyes will be on whether there has been any weakness in its key metrics [such as drop-out rates, time to hire and interview to placement ratios] since [the company's 28 March update]".

The broker said: "We believe the demand for IT staffing ... should perform better than the last downturn, given the absence of a bubble market ... this time around. That said, investment in IT still depends on business confidence and is still susceptible to budget cuts."

The Griffin brewery owner Fuller Smith & Turner is due to publish final results and, despite the pall of economic slowdown spread over the sector, Panmure Gordon expects the company to prove more resilient that its peers.

The broker's 2009 forecasts allow for a slowdown in managed pub like-for-like sales as well as lower profit growth elsewhere. But, Panmure said: "The company should still generate strong positive net cash flow, adding more firepower that could be used for either acquisitions or share buy backs".

Results/Updates: Signet, Fuller Smith & Turner and SThree.

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