Big freeze helps Whitbread deliver hot results

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WHITBREAD should be perked up by sales from its fast-­growing Costa coffee chain when it ­unveils first-quarter trading figures on Tuesday.

Freezing weather during March is likely to have resulted in takings for the group’s ­Beefeater and Brewers Fayre ­restaurants falling flat.

However, Whitbread’s hotel chain, Premier Inn, is expected to have done well despite tough comparatives.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley forecast a 2.5 per cent like-for-like sales boost for Whitbread’s hotels, with a 3 per cent ­increase for the coffee chain, having done well out of the ­exceptionally cold spell.

Overall like-for-like sales are forecast to climb 2 per cent for the group.

“Costa should have benefited from the colder weather, as people socialise in its shops,” Morgan Stanley analysts said.

PC World and Currys parent Dixons Retail is tipped to post a sharp rise in profits on Thursday as it enjoys a resurgence helped by the demise of rival Comet.

It has been reaping the ­benefits of being the last big consumer electricals specialist left standing in the sector, ­recently reporting a 13 per cent leap in like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland in the three months to 30 April.

The group said at the time of fourth-quarter trading figures that it expects full-year underlying pre-tax profits at the top end of expectations of £75 million to £85m – a 20 per cent surge on the £70.8m reported the previous year.

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said the group was also benefiting from the recent recovery in the housing market, which has been boosting demand for white goods.

But as well as the better trading conditions, Dixons is ploughing ahead with self-help measures by targeting £90m in cost savings and restructuring underperforming European businesses. It has been overhauling its under-pressure European online operation PIXmania, withdrawing from almost half the countries where it operated.

Regional airline Flybe is expected to dive deeper into the red when it reports full-year figures on Friday after a turbulent year.

The Exeter-based carrier, which is run by Scots-born chairman and chief executive Jim French, recently warned full-year losses for the year to 31 March will be bigger than feared at around £23m as it is hit by higher fuel costs and the squeeze on consumer spending.

It has been taking action to pull the business out of its tailspin, recently quitting Gatwick Airport by selling its runway space there to budget rival EasyJet for £20m, while cutting jobs and trimming its pilots’ pay by 5 per cent.

HSBC analysts said the ­restructuring was “broadly sensible”. But they added: “The company will need to show ­investors it is able to turn the plans into reality.”

House builder Crest Nicholson is expected to toast its promotion to the FTSE 250 by announcing a rise in half-year profits on Tuesday.

The Surrey-based firm, a residential developer focused on the southern half of England, has been upgraded to the second tier of London’s shares just four months after returning to the stock market.

It came after a five-year absence that saw the builder bought by HBOS and Scots entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter for £715m at the height of the housing market in 2007.

The subsequent downturn saw it go through two debt ­restructurings in 2009 and 2011 and end up in the hands of American hedge fund Varde and Deutsche Bank.

But the investors then sold some of their shares in the flotation in February, which valued the company at £636m.