It may be the UK's biggest super-market chain, but when Tesco releases its third-quarter sales update tomorrow, it is the international figures that are expected to contain most of the good news.
A recent trip with investors and analysts to China and South Korea – which is now its largest market outside Britain – showed that things are going well in Asia, where it wants to expand.
Jefferies International believes Tesco's overseas sales in the third-quarter will have grown 13 per cent and that it "will confirm that US like-for-like increases remain strong, whilst we expect more limited progress in some European markets".
On the domestic front, the broker says the update "should confirm pedestrian UK trading momentum", which "could remain a near-term drag on the shares".
Shore Capital is similarly low-key. It expects Tesco's UK trading to be "in line with a dull market", resulting in "a reasonably muted headline like-for-like sales performance". Shore's analysts comment that the "trading environment has been characterised by dull volumes, probably flat across the industry at best, but robust food inflation [and trading up]".
While Jefferies has kept the retail giant's stock as a "hold", Shore recommends it as a "buy". Altium Securities agrees, saying the shares "stand at a crossroads" and forecasting that they "will be a lot lower or a lot higher in two years' time".
The broker sees Tesco dropping as low as 325p, although it says that "an improved UK performance, together with a strong Chinese consumer economy, would, we believe, drive the shares to 600p". This is "the most likely scenario", the broker says.
The latest trading picture from Southern Cross Healthcare is out tomorrow, as the care home company releases its preliminary results. The group has recently been the subject of reports that former owner Blackstone may make an approach. This follows Southern Cross revealing at the end of last month that talks with Towerbrook Capital had ended but that it was still in "highly preliminary" contact with other potential bidders.
Panmure Gordon, which has a "hold" recommendation on the company, says it expects its revenue to be up by 2 per cent, although the broker also forecasts a drop of 27 per cent in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, "reflecting the decline in occupancy over the past 12 months". Therefore, says Panmure, occupancy will be one of the topics on which investors will focus, as well as "whether any progress has been made in re-negotiating rents".
Results/Updates: Andor Technology, Datong, Southern Cross Healthcare, Tesco, Victrex and Wolseley.
Jefferies International may have upgraded its recommendation for Micro Focus to "hold" from "underperform", but its opinion on the software company ahead of the release of its interim results on Wednesday is not exactly positive. The broker says it made the move on "valuation considerations" and that among its worries are "fundamental concerns about the scope to successfully cross-sell to the legacy customer base".
Stagecoach also publishes interim results on Wednesday, and Charles Stanley analyst Tony Shepard notes that November's trading update showed it was set to "meet its expectations of profitability" for the full-year. He estimates that the group will reveal pre-tax profits of £213m thanks to "encouraging revenue developments". Noting that Stagecoach's price has outperformed the FTSE All Share in the past year by about 25 per cent, he has kept his "hold" advice on the stock.
Results/Updates: ATH Resources, Game, Kesa Electricals, Micro Focus International and Stagecoach.
It is the turn of DS Smith to produce its interim results on Thursday, and the packaging company is expected to release its strategic review which will see how CEO Miles Roberts is planning to turn the group into (in his own words) "a growing business that is more focused, producing higher margins and returns, with less cyclicality".
Evolution Securities analysts have been speculating about what could be included in the review, and say there could be "a medium-term exit" for its office products unit Spicers. Generally the broker is positive on the company's future, giving it a "buy" recommendation and upping its target price to 245p from 200p.
Results/Updates: Ashtead, CareTech, DS Smith, HMV, Park Group, Photo-Me International, Premier Farnell, PZ Cussons, Rank and Titon Holdings.
Results/Updates: Polar Capital.
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