The week ahead will bring updates and results from a number of well-known brands including grocery delivery firm Ocado, bakery chain Greggs and posh tonic maker Fevertree.
Other firms in the diary include copper miner Antofagasta, publican Wetherspoons and the Gym Group, while the macro diary will be dominated by the latest interest rate decisions from the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England.
Greggs not on a roll
Journalists are unlikely to wheel out their favoured “Greggs on a roll” headline when the bakery chain issues its full-year results on Tuesday.
Greggs PLC (LON:GRG) has already told the market it expects its loss before tax for 2020 to be as much as £15mln, compared to a profit of £108mln a year earlier so the focus will be on current trading.
“The company has tried to adapt its operations to keep up with the nation’s changing snacking habits by rolling out click and collect and a delivery service,” noted Susannah Streeter at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“Flaky sales are likely to continue into the second half of 2021, given lockdown 3 but at the last reading Greggs had a buoyant net cash position of £37 million and a three year £100 million revolving credit facility which should help it stay resilient until trade bounces back in town and city centres,’ she added.
Antofagasta hopes to shine amid copper price surge
Chilean copper giant Antofagasta PCL (LON:ANTO) will report full-year results on Tuesday following what has been a good 12 months for the firm, which has seen its stock rise 120% over the period amid a 60% uplift in copper prices.
The rise of electric vehicles had raised hopes that the metal will find itself in even higher demand than normal, a trend that some will see as a good sign for the world’s recovery given copper’s reputation as a barometer for the health of the global economy.
For Antofagasta specifically, output, profit and dividends will be the key focus among investors, with the latter being eyed in particular for a hefty increase following a sharp cut to the interim payment last year.
Questions for Capita
This year it has already completed the sale of its education software business for £298mln cash on completion that could rise to £343mln.
It also confirmed that a sale is being examined of its Axelos joint venture with the Cabinet Office, while its customer management, specialist services and other software businesses are also on the block.
Barclays said their current forecasts put the shares on a bargin rating of around six times 2022 earnings, but if further assets sales are made this could be “materially dilutive” and, while potentially leaving the balance sheet in a net cash position, could reduce earnings by over a third.
“Of course, much depends on the price obtained and management’s ability to reduce central overhead, but at least Capita has assets to sell and this underpins the investment case at current levels, in our view,” the bank’s analysts said. “Of course, profits are only part of the equation.”
On balance, they reckon the “asset underpinning supports a materially higher share price, but recognise much is clouded by near-term uncertainty”.
Ocado delivers update
Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO), one of the FTSE 100’s rare tech stars, zooms in with a trading update on Thursday, having last month reported a fivefold reduction in losses last year but warned that the outlook for 2021 was very much dependent on how coronavirus restrictions are eased.
This uncertainty affected the wider tech sector as pandemic winners were sold off around the world, with Ocado’s shares down over a quarter from recent highs.
For the current year, the company’s finger-in the-air prediction is for double-digit revenue growth in UK Solutions & Logistics, around 30% growth in fees from its international supermarket customers for its Solutions business, plus an additional £30m of accelerated investment in its platform technology, taking total predicted capital expenditure up to around £700mln.
“We expect sales at Ocado continued with vigour,” said analysts at Hargreaves Lansdown, but added that management need to continue to convince investors that demand for its expensive fulfilment centres is still strong.
“With the end of lockdown in sight the e-commerce boom will likely lose steam, leaving supermarket execs faced with the dilemma of whether to spend big on a robotic fulfilment centre that will take years to pay off, or simply improve their current in-store picking technology for a fraction of the cost.”
Fevertree hopes to keep some fizz
Thursday will see full year results from posh mixer maker Fevertree Drinks PLC (LON:FEVR), although the headline figures have already been pre-flagged in a January trading update in which the company reported a 3% fall in revenue to £252.1mln for 2020 as a 22% fall in UK revenues was offset by strong growth in the US and the rest of the world.
While the company said it had traded resiliently during the year, investors will be looking to see how the latest round of lockdowns in early 2021 have impacted trading in the current financial year.
The outlook will also be closely eyed for any commentary on how the company expects its business to recover as restaurants and bars prepare to reopen in early summer in line with the UK’s roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions.
EMIS logs in with finals
EMIS Group plc (LON:EMIS), the provider of IT services to GP surgeries, will report its full year results on Thursday after having weathered the pandemic period reasonably well due to its products having been crucial for the health sector during the crisis.
With this in mind, profits and revenues will be expected to have held up well, with focus instead likely to be on the roll-out of the company’s next-generation core product, EMIS-X, which is designed to provide the NHS with better access to patient data.
Investors will be hoping that a successful EMIS-X rollout could help the company justify a price rise to its customers, which in turn could boost its cash generation and potentially grow shareholder returns.
Gym Group feels the cash burn
In its January update, the group said its monthly cash burn during the current lockdown is £5mln, thanks to government support.
The group revealed that revenue for 2020 slumped to £80mln from £153mln the year before.
While it waits for the all-clear for people to once again start taking out annual gym memberships that they hardly ever use, the focus will be on maintaining its liquidity and here, unlike many of its lapsed members, it is in decent shape, with plenty of headroom said to be available under its £100mln banking facility.
That being said, it has been having discussions with its lending banks and there may well be some news on how these are progressing.
Budget gives Wetherspoon founder plenty to rant about
Buried away in Friday’s interim results from pubs operator JD Wetherspoon PLC (LON:JDW) will be esoteric stuff such as sales and profits (or losses) but you may have to wade through hundreds of words of ranting from ‘Spoons founder and chairman, Tim Martin, to find them.
Since the group last updated the market, the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, had delivered his budget, which is sure to give plenty of ranting material for Martin to get his frothing mouth into.
His attention of late has been on Brexit but with that issue hopefully done and dusted he might return to a favoured theme of the unfair discrepancy in tax treatments for pubs compared to supermarkets.
To be fair, he has a point.
The company raised roughly £94mln in January, placing shares at 1,120p a pop, putting to bed liquidity fears The shares now trade at 1,336p.
The company said the extra liquidity will enable it to cope with “very low sales after reopening” – a barbed reference to what the group sees as draconian restrictions on the pubs industry – and also provide it with some firepower to buy properties in central London that likely will be available at knockdown prices.
Central banks will be to the fore in the coming week, with the US Federal Reserve announcing its policy decision on Wednesday, the Bank of England on Thursday and the Bank of Japan on Friday.
While central banks generally seem content to keep monetary policy ultra-loose in their attempts to let the global economy recover from the effects of the pandemic, bond markets have become a little more nervous about this in the past fortnight.
Withing the trio of bank announcements, the single most market-moving item may be the US Federal Open Market Committee’s ‘dot plot’ of future rate expectations for the rest of the year and beyond.
“Markets will be watching for signals that FOMC members have bought forward expectations of future rate hikes. That could be enough to reignite to mini-taper-tantrum once again,” said market analyst Jaffrey Halley at Oanda.
Over at the Bank of England, talk of a move to negative interest rates has gone a little quieter, as analysts at AJ Bell observed.
“Governor Andrew Bailey is now suggesting that the risks of deflation and inflation are more finely balanced. If the economy does not bounce back quickly from the pandemic then it still seems that nothing can be ruled out,” they added.
Significant announcements expected for week ending 19 March:
Monday March 15:
Tuesday March 16:
Finals: Antofagasta PLC (LON:ANTO), Greggs PLC (LON:GRG), Computacenter PLC (LON:CCC), 4Imprint Group PLC (LON:FOUR), Bakkavor Group PLC (LON:BAKK), Bango PLC (LON:BGO), Biopharma Credit PLC (LON:BPCR), Boku Inc (LON:BOKU), Costain Group PLC (LON:COST), Fintel PLC (LON:FNTL), Harworth Group PLC (LON:HWG), Polypipe Group PLC (LON:PLP), Sabre Insurance Group PLC (LON:SBRE), STV Group PLC (LON:STVG), Team17 Group PLC (LON:TM17), Unite Group PLC (LON:UTG), John Wood Group PLC (LON:WG.), Just Group PLC (LON:JUST), TI Fluid Systems PLC (LON:TIFS)
Economic data: US retail sales
Wednesday March 17:
Finals: Ferrexpo PLC (LON:FXPO), Dignity PLC (LON:DTY), Hostelworld Group PLC (LON:HSW), Advanced Medical Solutions Group PLC (LON:AMS), Empiric Student Property PLC (LON:ESP), Kape Technologies PLC (LON:KAPE), Mpac Group PLC (LON:MPAC), Science In Sport PLC (LON:SIS), Tribal Group PLC (LON:TRB), Capita PLC (LON:CPI)
Economic data: Fed rates decision
Thursday March 18:
Finals: 888 Holdings PLC (LON:888), Fevertree Drinks PLC (LON:FEVR), EMIS Group plc (LON:EMIS), National Express Group PLC (LON:NEX), Gym Group PLC (LON:GYM), Capital Ltd (LON:CAPD), Empresaria Group plc (LON:EMR), Eve Sleep PLC (LON:EVE), Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL), Portmeirion Group PLC (LON:PMP), Restore Plc (LON:RST), Vectura Group PLC (LON:VEC)
Economic data: BoE rates decision, US jobless claims
Friday March 19:
Economic data: UK consumer confidence