Wednesday preview: Next, Wetherspoon, Playtech ...

Fashion chain Next is going up against very strong comparative figures when it releases first quarter sales figures on Wednesday.

Fashion chain Next is going up against very strong comparative figures when it releases first quarter sales figures on Wednesday.

"On a macro level, two out of three of the months to be reported have been weak (February and April) according to published data and information gleaned from private companies, with March the only bright spot," noted Panmure Gordon.

The broker thinks the chain's bricks and mortar stores will do well merely to match the level of sales seen in the first quarter of 2011. However, the Directory side of the business - Internet and catalogue sales - is tipped by Panmure Gordon to show around 12% top-line growth.

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Pubs group JD Wetherspoon issues an interim management statement covering its fiscal third quarter. Here, Panmure Gordon is predicting zero like-for-like (LFL) sales growth and a half a percentage point erosion in the operating margin to 9.1%.

"We note that LFL pub profit increased 1.2% in H1 [first half] yet group margins declined 10bps [one-tenth of a percentage point] implying that the opening programme is having a significant drag on group profitability," Panmure Gordon said.

Peel Hunt is a little more pessimistic, and thinks LFL sales will be down 0.5% year-on-year.

"Meanwhile we understand that Greene King's spectacular LFL sales of +4.6% over the last quarter was not particularly biased in favour of that company's 50% of destination houses (it describes the other 50% as Locals, although that is not quite the same as Wetherspoon's High Street market. That suggests to us that either (i) Wetherspoon is currently losing out to competition, possibly from concepts with a broader menu, or (ii) the local market is doing better than the High Street, because cash-strapped consumers are just not going into town," Peel Hunt said.

Online gaming software developer Playtech is set to release key performance indicators and Panmure Gordon is predicting gross income of €84.1m for the first quarter.

"This is split €46.4m from Playtech revenues, €13.0m from the William Hill Online (WHO) JV and €24.8m from PTTS [PT Turnkey Services}. We expect the group to report that Q2 [second quarter] has started well with ongoing quarterly revenue growth," the broker speculated.

Peel Hunt, meanwhile, notes that the first three months of the year have been good ones for the gaming industry, which bodes well for Playtech.

"We expect most areas of the business to contribute to the growth, including a strong performance from the service operations (PTTS). Poker has been difficult for many operators, but it would appear from data that Playtech has had a reasonable Q1 [first quarter] - cementing its position as the number two globally," the broker said.

Sub-prime lender Provident Financial's first quarter interim management statement should be a reassuring one, Peel Hunt reckons, adding that the period is one that is more about collection of repayments than growthin receivables.

"Recent economic data has been relatively mixed but suggests little material change in conditions for Provident's customers. For example, consumer confidence fell slightly in March to -31 from -29 in February (source Gfk) and disposable income fell by £10 to £144 a week (source: Asda Income Tracker). Both of these are continuing trends and largely reflected in Provident's assumptions for the year. ONS data last week reported a very small decline in unemployment (to 2.65m) - in assumptions for Vanquis, Provident conservatively plan for unemployment increasing to c3m," Peel Hunt said.

On the employment front, the Purchasing Managers' Index for Construction for April is due out at 9:30am, as are mortgage approvals for March. The latter are seen slipping to 48,000 from March's 49,000.


Avon Rubber


Carr's Milling Industries, Lok'n Store Group, Next Fifteen Communications, Swallowfield


City of London Inv Trust, JPMorgan Claverhouse Inv Trust


Crude Oil Inventories (US) (15:30)

Factory Orders (US) (15:00)

Goods Orders (US) (15:00)

MBA Mortgage Applications (US) (12:00)

PMI Manufacturing (GER) (08:55)

Unemployment Rate (GER) (08:55)


British Sky Broadcasting Group, Kofax


Home Retail Group


Henderson Group, Next, Provident Financial, Wetherspoon (J.D.)


DP World Limited


Admiral Group


Alpha UK Multi Property Trust, AZ Electronic Materials SA (DI), BAE Systems, Communisis, Fiberweb, Henderson Group, IP Group, Kerry Group 'A' Shares, Lighthouse Group, Provident Financial, Spirent Communications, StatPro Group


Playtech Ltd.


Consumer Credit (09:30)

M4 Money Supply (09:30)

M4 Sterling Lending (09:30)

Mortgage Approvals (09:30)

PMI Construction (09:30)


DP World Limited, Edinburgh UK Tracker Trust, New World Resources A Shares


Admiral Group, African Barrick Gold , AG Barr, Anglo Pacific Group, APR Energy, ARM Holdings, Cobham, Cookson Group, Croda International, Dunedin Enterprise Investment Trust, Edinburgh US Tracker Trust, Elektron Technology, Elementis, EP Global Opportunities Trust, Ferrexpo, Henderson Group, Henry Boot, Highcroft Investment, Hochschild Mining, Holders Technology, Hydro International, Hydrogen Group, ITV, JD Sports Fashion, KBC Advanced Technologies, Keller Group, Kingfisher, Laird, Michael Page International, Ocean Wilsons Holdings Ltd., Pennant International Group, Porvair, Senior, Shaft Sinkers Holdings, SIG, SThree, Travis Perkins, Weir Group, William Hill, Xstrata


First Quantum Minerals Ltd., Wolfson Microelectronics