Progress reports sought from two major insurers
Insurers are poised to dominate the corporate agenda this week with heavyweight players Aviva and Prudential scheduled to deliver half-year results.
Executive chairman John McFarlane’s vision for Aviva is likely to overshadow the hard numbers, and analysts will want a progress update on his far-reaching plan, which many in the City saw as a dig against former chief executive Andrew Moss’s record.
McFarlane said a review of 58 divisions had identified 16 weak performers that would be sold or wound down, including the large-scale bulk annuities business in the UK.
Another stellar performance in Asia will fuel speculation Prudential will uproot from the UK to the Far East.
The UK’s biggest insurer is expected to report a 7 per cent hike in operating profits to £1.1 billion in the first six months of 2012, with its Asian arm the star, up 17 per cent to £380 million.
Last year, the group’s Asian business generated more profits than its UK arm for the first time, and its home market is again set to be overshadowed.
The group, founded in London in 1848, has threatened to move – possibly to Asia – as it continues to wrangle with regulators over new accountancy rules that will force it to set aside more cash.
The publicity boost enjoyed by Greggs as it fought its corner in the “pasty tax” row is unlikely to stop it reporting a sales decline tomorrow.
Greggs’ Scots-born boss, Ken McMeikan, spearheaded a fightback against Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to extend the 20 per cent VAT tax to its pasties and sausage rolls when he marched on Downing Street to deliver a 300,000-strong petition from angry customers.
While the campaign galvanised support for the group’s hot savoury products, its recent weak run of trading is expected to have continued in its half-year results.
The last update revealed a 1.8 per cent drop in like-for-like sales and Greggs complained of six disappointing weeks amid the wet weather.
Those trends are set to have continued into June when fresh downpours piled more pain on the UK’s beleaguered high streets, where most of the food firm’s 1,600 stores are located.
Hovis maker Premier Foods will assure investors its turnaround plans remain on track despite suffering a fall in profits. The UK’s biggest food manufacturer has seen its shares lose three-quarters of their value in just over a year as it struggles under the weight of a near-£1bn debt mountain.
In a tough environment marked by supermarket special offers, chief executive Michael Clarke has led the turnaround by selling smaller businesses as Premier focuses on a core portfolio that includes the Batchelors and Mr Kipling brands.
The operator of the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotel brands is set to brush off concerns about an inquiry into anti-competitive practices when it chalks up a rise in profits.
Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) will face questions about the Office of Fair Trading’s provisional findings that it has been involved in a potentially unlawful deal with major online travel agents, Booking.com and Expedia, to limit discounts on rooms.
IHG believes it is in compliance with the law and is expected to stand its ground, particularly as the OFT has conceded the procedures are widely used in the industry.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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