A hectic day is in store on Thursday with trading updates expected from SABMiller, Hammerson, Debenhams, Ladbrokes, Persimmon, WH Smith, International Power and Hargreaves Lansdown.
Brewing giant SABMiller's fourth quarter trading statement should be "robust", according to Credit Suisse, with a continuation of strong trading in Latin America, Africa and Asia, all of which should notch up double-digit percentage volume growth. On the downside, Credit Suisse expect North American volumes to contract from the corresponding period a year earlier.
"We anticipate no sequential improvement in Europe from Q3 [third quarter] (-2%), and whilst we expect North America to be negative in the quarter, we anticipate a sequential improvement given better weather over the period. We estimate 1% growth in South Africa, broadly in line with Q3, however acknowledge a relatively weak comparative versus Q3. Though the company does not typically give detailed margin comments, we forecast +20bps [basis points] for FY12 [full year 2012], which is broadly in line with consensus," the broker said.
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On an organic basis, Credit Suisse is forecasting 3% volume and 6% revenue growth for the group as a whole in the fourth quarter.
Stockbroker Jefferies is forecasting group organic lager growth of 3.3%, and highlights the opportunity for the recent acquisition of Fosters to put some extra oomph into performance.
"There are clearly some easy wins at Fosters through better market segmentation and improved brand management and further focus on the roll-out of Peroni/MGD at the high-end. In recent years, the Fosters business has clearly not been particularly well managed, nor sufficiently focused behind beer (more focus on wine) and this is set to change under SABMiller's stewardship. We believe the average volume growth target of 1-3% pa is ambitious in the short term given the difficulties in the Australian market, but are comfortable with the price/mix guidance of 4-5% pa," the broker said.
Property group Hammerson recently announced it would be selling off its London office portfolio. Jefferies believes this is likely to take place as a "job lot" deal in the second half of 2012, rather than a piecemeal disposal.
The broker would like to see Hammerson provide details on the expected rate of reinvestment of the proceeds "otherwise the balance sheet will probably deleverage to 30% (34% LTV [loan-to-value])."
"We also expect commentary on the development situation in Croydon and what Hamerson believes is the next step to progress the (long-dated) development of the Whitgift Centre," the broker added.
Interim results from Debenhams will not be a total surprise, as the group has already indicated that gross transaction value (GTV) grew by 1.4% in the first half of the financial year, while like-for-like (LFL) sales grew 0.3%.
"With no current trading update, the key unknown is whether management will announce details of a buyback programme and, if so, its potential size," reckons Peel Hunt.
Panmure Gordon is forecasting "pre-tax profit of £124.7m (-3.5%), in line with consensus on £124m to £125m. We expect adjusted EPS [earnings per share] of 7.3p and a 1p dividend for the half year."
Moving on to bookie Ladbrokes, the same broker thinks the Cheltenham race festival should have been more profitable for the bet-layer than last year (a view echoed by Peel Hunt), while a few unpredictable footie results will also have helped (bookies love it when an outsider comes in).
Peel Hunt will be "looking for positive comment on the success of the marketing campaign in digital."
"Over 2011 as a whole new sign ups rose 11%, but in H2 [second half] were up 47% (on H2 2010) as the group invested in the "Game-on" marketing campaign. Digital profits are likely to be held back in H1 as a result of the timing of investment in the business. The performance of the Global Draw machines should also boost year-on-year comparisons for the UK retail estate." Peel Hunt said.
Debenhams, WH Smith
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OAO Severstal GDR (Reg S)
Telfonica Czech Republic A.S. GDR (144A/REG S)
HydroDec Group, International Public Partnerships Ltd., OAO Severstal GDR (Reg S), Phaunos Timber Fund Ltd., Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings, Spectra Systems Corporation
LSL Property Services, PV Crystalox Solar
Hammerson, Hargreaves Lansdown, International Power, Lavendon Group, Persimmon
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African Barrick Gold , Amec, Anglo American, Anglo Pacific Group, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SPA, BlackRock World Mining Trust, Corio NV, Devro, Electric Word, Hammerson, JSC Halyk Bank GDR (Reg S), Ladbrokes, LSL Property Services, Persimmon, Plant Health Care, Rio Tinto, Stadium Group, Sterling Energy, SThree
E2V Technologies, OJSC Novolipetsk Steel GDS (Reg S), SABMiller
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