The Week Ahead: Barclays kicks off bank reporting season

By Alastair Marsh
Monday 15 February 2010 01:00

The banking sector, which has been the centre of public attention as bonus season has got into full swing, will retain the limelight this week as Barclays issues its full-year results tomorrow.

The Canary Wharf-based bank will be the first among its UK peers to publish its 2009 data which, according to City brokerage Charles Stanley, will attract investor interest "for a read across to the other UK banks". Rising loan impairments would continue to stymie the strong performance from investment banking, as had been the case in the third quarter, and bear down on the full-year results, the broker said.

Loan impairments, which the bank predicted in an interim statement in November will be about £9bn for last year, were expected to peak in the fourth quarter. "The market will be very interested to know whether management remains as confident that this will indeed be the case," analysts at Charles Stanley said.

The market will also be looking for guidance on regulatory developments, especially any changes which could have a negative affect on Barclays Capital, the firm's investment banking business which has been one of the primary drivers of earnings in 2009. The so-called Volcker Plan, which would ban proprietary trading, is a cause for concern, the broker said.

Today: Results/updates: Fidessa Group, Low & Bonar, Plant Health Group

Tomorrow: Premier Foods, the UK's largest food manufacturer and owner of well-known brands Hovis and Mr Kipling, will release its annual results.

In mid-January the company said it expected to report good progress in 2009 and announce a 2.2 per cent increase in total sales from the year before. However, the experts UBS said Christmas trading was "much tougher" than management had expected.

Those at Investec said that Premier had suffered from bearish investors, evidenced in its declining share price, and is in need of a fresh start. "Premier [is] hinting that the Prelims on 16 February will be something of a new beginning and new CFO Jim Smart is being readied for a City charm offensive. We view this as both necessary and welcome."

Domino's Pizza will also issue its 2009 results tomorrow. On the back of better-than-expected sales growth plus 55 store openings in the year, Goldman Sachs raised its expectations of Domino's' pre-tax earnings for 2009 by 3.8 per cent to £29.6m.

"We see limited competitive threats on the horizon and in our view, the proposition is unlikely to lose consumer appeal," added analysts at Brewin Dolphin.

Results/updates: ADVFN, Barclays, Devro, Domino's Pizza UK and Ireland, Innospec, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Premier Foods.

Wednesday: Results/updates: Acergy, Hargreaves Services, Rexam.

Thursday: City analysts are positive ahead of confectioner Thorntons' interim results, but the company's Christmas sales distribution has led some to question its strategy.

Thorntons' own-store sales took a festive pounding, suffering a 4.4 per cent set-back in like-for-like sales according to Investec, on the back of a 4.5 per cent decline to £51.7m in the last quarter of the year.

"The greater than expected switch away from high-margin own-store sales to lower-margin supermarket sales over Christmas raises questions about the longer term strategy, in particular the optimal number of own stores," said Noble's experts.

However, the broker was upbeat about the diversified revenue opportunities resulting from the group's various offerings. "Through product innovation (fair trade, single estate, new flavours, Thorntons Moments), Thorntons now has differentiated products to sell through various channels, be it own stores, supermarkets or the internet."

Results/updates: Antisoma, BAE Systems, Ladbrokes, Morgan Crucible Company, Thorntons, Reed Elsevier, Victoria Oil & Gas.

Friday: The announcement of Rentokil Initial's 2009 results on Friday will be overshadowed by its growth plans, Charles Stanley's watchers said.

A new strategy is expected to be announced which will give more detail on sales and marketing initiatives to kick-start organic revenue growth, which declined 11.4 per cent in the nine months to September.

Results/updates: Anglo American, BlueBay Asset Management, Ceres Power Holdings, Charles Taylor Consulting, KBC Advanced Technologies, Lookers, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, NXT, Rentokil Initial, Synchronica, Volga Gas.

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