Market watch: BT bids to silence City doubters

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THE imminent move by BT into ­Premier League broadcasting is expected to take centre stage when telecoms giant unveils fourth-quarter and full-year results on ­Friday.

BT – headed by Scot Ian Livingston – has been in a war of words with BSkyB since landing a three-year deal to show 38 games a season from this summer.

But it will have to overcome scepticism in the City over whether it can do better than other pretenders to the pay-TV crown such as ESPN and Setanta.

An announcement on how customers will be able to pay for and access the new TV service is imminent, which executives hope will put paid to the doubters.

Analysts expect a 2.8 per cent fall in underlying revenues for the three months to the end of March, with an ­annual fall of 3.9 per cent. ­Total revenues for the quarter are predicted to drop 4.8 per cent to £4.6 billion on a like-for-like basis against a year earlier

Profits before tax are expected to rise again, from £690m to £733m in the fourth quarter, with the full-year figure up from £2.4bn to £2.6bn.

Competition in the supermarket sector will be also be highlighted this week when Sainsbury’s and Morrisons post figures.

Sainsbury’s will face more questions over the future of its long-standing chief executive when it posts full-year results on Wednesday.

The UK’s third-biggest super­market is expected to report growing profits amid a stagnant grocery market – marking the ninth consecutive rise in annual profits since Justin King joined as chief executive.

But speculation is mounting over King’s future after reports the company has lined up headhunters to ­identify a replacement.

While King is not thought to be planning to leave in the near future, the grocer is said to have appointed headhunter firm Egon Zehnder to sound out possible candidates.

Struggling supermarket Morrisons’ attempts to reverse shrinking sales will be under the spotlight when it updates on first-quarter trading on Thursday.

The UK’s fourth-biggest grocery chain is expanding online and opening more convenience stores in a bid to regain market share, and is thought to be close to taking its first big step into online food sales by sealing a tie-up with grocery delivery firm Ocado.

Insurer Aviva, a major employer in Scotland, will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s pay humiliation but may encounter anger over slashed dividends at its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday.

The group faces shareholders for the first time since former chief executive Andrew Moss was ousted after the bulk of investors voted down a controversial pay deal – a key moment in the so-called “shareholder spring”.

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