Thursday preview: AstraZeneca investors looking for reassurance

Third-quarter earnings season has got into full swing for UK-listed blue chips with pharmaceuticals giants AstraZeneca and Shire due to report on Thursday, along with consumer product titan Unilever.

Third-quarter earnings season has got into full swing for UK-listed blue chips with pharmaceuticals giants AstraZeneca and Shire due to report on Thursday, along with consumer product titan Unilever.

AstraZeneca will update the market on trading on the three months to the end of September, "traditionally not a quarter when the company nudges its outlook", explained analyst Savvas Neophytou from Panmure Gordon on Wednesday.

"The new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has been in place for three weeks now, so the market will look forward to a first interaction at the helm of AstraZeneca," Neophytou said. Nevertheless, he says not to expect a "new vision" from the frontman just yet.

The broker is forecasting revenue of $6.8bn, above the consensus estimate of $6.72bn, a pre-tax profit of $1.9bn (consensus: $1.88bn) and a statutory earnings per share of $1.19 (consensus: $1.13).

However, the market will undoubtedly be looking to new CEO Pascal Soriot for some reassurance after he announced the suspension of the company's share repurchase programme earlier this month, one of his first acts as CEO.

Neophytou said: "We have felt that the share repurchase explanation (to build up a war chest for acquisitions) would have created an unwelcome overhang in the shares. Although we do not believe the company will deviate from its well established M&A valuation criteria, having learned its lessons following the acquisition of Medimmune, the market will not be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. With a new CEO in place, strategic needs may alter."

Thursday October 25

INTERIMS

ASOS, Stobart Group Ltd.

INTERIM DIVIDEND PAYMENT DATE

BrainJuicer Group, Inmarsat, Ladbrokes, Lupus Capital, Martin Currie Global Portfolio Trust

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS

Bloomberg Consumer Confidence (US) (14:45)

Continuing Claims (US) (13:30)

Durable Goods Orders (US) (13:30)

Initial Jobless Claims (US) (13:30)

M3 Money Supply (EU) (09:00)

Pending Homes Sales (US) (15:00)

Q3

AstraZeneca, Petroleum Geo Services ASA, Shire Plc, Unilever

GMS

Premier Foods

FINALS

Debenhams

IMSS

AZ Electronic Materials SA (DI), Inchcape, Kazakhmys, National Express Group

EGMS

Acer Incorporated GDR (Reg S), Datang International Power Generation Co Ltd.

AGMS

Antisoma, BHP Billiton, Go-Ahead Group, Hermes Pacific Investments, Leeds Group, Lochard Energy Group

TRADING ANNOUNCEMENTS

Mail.ru Group Ltd GDR (Reg S), Stobart Group Ltd., WPP

UK ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS

GDP (Preliminary) (09:30)

Index of Services (09:30)

FINAL DIVIDEND PAYMENT DATE

Oxford Instruments

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