Retailers read the runes of Marks & Spencer results

POOR economic news in the shape of a revised-down fourth-quarter GDP figure and news of the first failure of a Government bonds auction in seven years rattled investor nerves. But the FTSE 100 Index crept back up towards the 4,000 barrier as the US Government's toxic asset scheme boosted banks and closed the week ahead 56.1 points at 3898.9.

Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose is likely to face more awkward questions from investors this week when he reports sales figures for the past three months. The focus on Tuesday will be on the company's ability to lure in shoppers at a time of deteriorating consumer confidence. M&S is seen as a bellwether of the sector and its insights into consumer spending patterns will be closely watched. Numis Securities believes there could be an improvement in both food and general merchandise, while the average market prediction is for total like-for-like sales to ease from a 7.1% fall to 7% in the quarter.

Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders will gather in Edinburgh next Friday for the company's annual meeting after a catastrophic year for the group, which posted the biggest loss in UK corporate history of 24.1bn in February.

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The Government's vast holding – its 70% stake in RBS is set to be formally confirmed next week – means the votes of individual shareholders are all but irrelevant, although many will undoubtedly use the opportunity for venting their anger at the turbulent turn of events.

Following its move to dump 325bn in toxic debts into a Treasury-backed protection scheme, the Treasury could end up with an even higher 95% stake, although it will limit its voting shares to 75%. UK Financial Investments, the public body which administers the taxpayer's stake in RBS, will therefore be the decisive player at the meeting.

Compass, the world's biggest catering group, will offer an update on its revival programme on Tuesday after reporting a 33% leap in full-year profits. Trading since the year-end on September 30 has already been described as "very good" by the group's management. Compass said in its first-quarter update that it expected a 30m boost to earnings in the three-month period, but SocGen predicts a possible further 40m lift to full year numbers in the light of sterling's recent slide.

Housebuilder Bellway will publish its half-year results on Tuesday amid testing times for the housing market. The Newcastle-based company revealed in February that sales had slumped 38% in six months, while its order book had almost halved year-on-year, standing at 296m. UBS predicted that Bellway will announce net debt of 180m, alongside profits of 21m prior to land write-downs of 120m.

Italian restaurant chain Prezzo's full-year results on Thursday are expected to show slowing profits growth in an uncertain economic climate.

And with the company hit by higher costs for food, utility bills and wages, profits are likely to be just 4% ahead at 11.1m for the full-year, according to brokers at Evolution Securities.

Book publisher Bloomsbury's full-year results on Tuesday will reveal how the group has performed post Harry Potter. The market is not expecting anything on a par with the 2007 result, pencilling in 10.8m for 2008, although last year had its successes for the group. It has had big hitters under its belt in 2008, such as JK Rowling's latest children's offering Tales Of Beadle The Bard and Khaled Hosseini's best-sellers Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. The group said in January that 2008 sales were "good" in difficult market conditions.

Week ahead


888 Holdings, AG Barr, Corin, Mitie (finals)


Bloomsbury Publishing, Cairn Energy, Hilton Foods (finals)


Bellway (interims); Compass, Marks & Spencer (updates)


Prezzo (finals)


Royal Bank of Scotland (AGM)