The Week Ahead: Thomas Cook investors hoping for sunnier times

 

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The Independent Online

Thomas Cook has had rather a tough time of it recently. The tour operator's chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, resigned in August after overseeing three profit warnings in less than a year and its share price has plummeted more than 80 per cent since February.

Investors will, therefore, be hoping there is no more bad news on Thursday when the group releases its pre-close update. The last time it updated the market, in July, it estimated that it would make an operating profit of £320m for the year. While no change to this figure is expected by City analysts, the company's comments on the current state of trading will be a major focus.

Last week its rival, Tui Travel, said that strong trading at the end of summer had ensured it remained on track to meet its profit targets. However, Numis Securities' Wyn Ellis is not forecasting bullishness from Thomas Cook. He said "deteriorating economic conditions" meant that he did not "expect any near-term respite to the problematic trading environment that has helped to de-rail the company."

Warning that "there is little financial headroom to fund further significant cash rationalisation costs," the analyst believes the group's immediate aim will be to reduce its debt pile, pointing out that it has said it hopes to make £200m from selling off assets over the coming month.

There is also the burning question of who will replace Mr Fontenla-Novoa. Last week it was announced that Frank Meysman will take over as chairman at the end of the year, but the company remains without a chief executive, so any update on this will be closely watched.



Today

Results/Updates: No major companies are due to report.



Tomorrow

The Daily Mail's owner DMGT issues a pre-close trading update tomorrow, and Investec's Gareth Davies expects the same themes to be the focus as when it released its third quarter interim management statement in July. Then, the publisher revealed its business-to-business titles were performing strongly, making up for the problems facing its consumer publications.

Mr Davies believes national advertising will have dropped by just under 10 per cent over the year, with regional advertising dropping by roughly 8 per cent. He also expects the company to have cut its debt to under £800m by the time the year draws to a close, although the analyst says the exact sum will depend on when the disposal of its US trade show operations George Little Management is completed.

Results/Updates: Close Brothers and DMGT.

Wednesday

Its brief update on Wednesday before the end of its financial year is unlikely to see Babcock reveal much asides from details on its order book and pipeline, according to Citigroup's Hugo Mills. The analyst believes the defence group will achieve its stated aim of a £10bn pipeline by November, and therefore estimates it should by now have topped £9bn. However, he expects the order book to stay steady at £12bn, although he still feels this will be "an achievement".

Mr Mills also says he will be on the lookout for further news regarding a possible disposal of its US unit, in the wake of the company saying back in July it was considering its options after deciding it was not a core part of its operations. Estimating the business could fetch between £100m and £150m, the analyst warns that current uncertainly over the defence market in the States means any sale could take a while.

After being knocked by a profit warning from its detection business in May, Smiths Group reveals its full-year results on Wednesday with hopefully no more nasty shocks. Charles Stanley's Tina Cook is forecasting that the figures will be in line with expectations, with weakness as its airport security operations made up for by a strong showing from its John Crane unit, which makes seals.

Results/Updates: Babcock, Domino's Pizza, Man Group and Smiths Group.



Thursday

The world's largest caterer Compass issues its pre-close trading update on Thursday, having last updated the market back in July when it revealed a jump in its revenue of 4.5 per cent over the third quarter. Analysts from UBS expect it to post a 5 per cent rise in organic sales for the twelve months, with margins staying flat in the last three months of the year thanks to the impact of March's earthquake in Japan.

Results/Updates: Compass, FirstGroup, Icap, London Stock Exchange, Tate & Lyle and Thomas Cook.



Friday

Results/Updates: No major companies due to report.

Economics Diary

Today

US Chicago Fed national activity index; US new home sales.



Tomorrow

CBI distributive trades survey for September;

US consumer confidence data.



Wednesday

US durable goods orders.

Thursday

Bank of England mortgage and consumer credit data for August; Nationwide house prices for September;

US GDP and home sales figures.



Friday

GfK consumer confidence survey;

US personal income and personal spending data.

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