Britain

Retailers, computer games designers and industrial pandemic trends to the fore in coming week

Back to school for the kids and back to financial results for the City, with the hustle and bustle returning to London's listed companies in a busy coming week even if the streets of the Square Mile are still pretty deserted.

In terms of macro data it will be quieter, with the main UK events being retail sales on Monday and industrial production on Friday, while in the politicial sphere Brexit should dominate as the latest negotiations take place on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

The week will start with a full-year trading update from Primark owner Associated British Foods PLC (LON:ABF), where its fast-fashion chain had to cope with a coronavirus lockdown without a developed online operation.

Investors will also be eyeing current trading at the groups Primark stores following their reopening and how much this has contributed in the final quarter of the groups financial year.

Retail operating profits are estimated to be between £300mln-350mln, which is lower than last year but better than some had expected.

ABF, which is a big sugar producer and grocery and food ingredients producer, said it expected to return to cash generation in the last quarter, with the grocery arm watched for details of the boost from increased supermarket sales during lockdown.

However, this uplift could slow in the final months of the year as supermarket shopping rates slowed amid the relaxation of lockdown restrictions.

JD and tonic

Tuesday will be busier in terms of company news, including half-year results from sports retail star JD Sports Fashion PLC (LON:JD.), which cut its final dividend for last year to preserve cash when it last came to the market with final results in July.

At the time the athleisure specialist said it was investing further in its main warehouse, near Manchester, as it expects a permanent shift of demand to online shopping following a doubling of digital sales amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Its first half, starting on 2 February, 2020, has been “like no other”, said analysts at Peel Hunt, with strong trading at the beginning, followed by lockdown during which time online did extremely well.

“Of most interest will be how the stores have done since mid-June.

“The evidence of peers in the US is that things have been OK in that territory, and JD will doubtless be at the top end of performance in the UK.”

Also on Tuesday, Fevertree Drinks PLC (LON:FEVR) will release interims where investors will be wanting to see how on-trade demand, which includes restaurants and bars, has performed over the summer after spring was pretty much cancelled due to coronavirus.

The tonic and mixers maker had been struggling during lockdown as the out-of-home segment had accounted for 50% of UK revenue and 70% of US revenue, though sales in the off-trade channel, consisting of supermarkets and shops, has seen growth.

How are Travis Perkins and DS Smith riding pandemic trends

Interim results from builders merchant Travis Perkins PLC (LON:TPK), also on Tuesday, come after a July update that showed sales for the first six months of the year came in better than expected.

Building companies were forced to slowed development for part of the period, with Travis Perkins like-for-like sales down 20% in the first half, with a 4% fall in the first quarter giving way to a 35% decline in the second.

The focus in these results will clearly be on trading in July and August, and looking forward, especially given the context of a recovering housing market. A key determinant of profitability in Wickes will be the strength to which the kitchen market has recovered, analysts say.

A trading update from packaging group DS Smith PLC (LON:SMDSL) on Tuesday will likely have read-through to wider trends during the pandemic.

Industrial demand undoubtedly took a hit during the lockdown, although there is likely to have been a large offset by e-commerce and consumer goods firms shipping out more packages to customers stuck in their houses.

Meanwhile, costs will also be in focus amid social distancing requirements and disruption to collection and processing networks, which may have increased prices of recycled paper, a key ingredient for cardboard boxes. Costs will also be eyed in relation to any lower volumes.

Games masters

One other noticeable trend of this pandemic has been a computer games market that has been on the charge like Sonic the Hedgehog, with shares in Frontier Developments PLC (LON:FDEV) and Team17 Group PLC (LON:TM17) up around 90% and 70% respectively so far this year.

Even before delivering Wednesdays final results for the past year, Frontier said it expects the new year to see revenues “within the top half” of analyst forecasts, driven by the continued momentum of its existing games and the launch some new additions.

In an update, the group unveiled a series of upcoming planned game releases for the current financial year to the end of next May, including the release of its Jurassic World Evolution game on Nintendo Switch consoles and two new games from its Frontier Foundry label, Lemnis Gate and Struggling.

For the past year, the company expects to report circa £76mln of revenue, down 15% due to the exceptional performance from Jurassic World Evolution the prior year, and with at least £16mln of underlying profits forecast.

As for Team17, the maker of the Worms game series, said back in June that trading had been strong in the first half of 2020 especially during the height of the pandemic but that activity returned to more normal levels as lockdowns eased.

In July it announced it had signed a publishing agreement with Tencent Games NExT Studios for the game Crown Trick, which will be launching on PC and Nintendo Switch later this year.

Peel Hunt expects the focus in Thursday's interim results will be on details of the second half pipeline.

Computacenter gains from remote working trends

From computers for play to those for work, half-year results from Computacenter PLC (LON:CCC) on Wednesday are also likely to be pretty good, with a short but upbeat update earlier this month that continued its pattern of raised guidance seen in May and again in July.

The latest increase was thought to be driven by a mixture of revenue upside in July and August and continuing cost outperformance with company travel and entertainment reduced to near-zero, predicted analysts at UBS.

Before the recent update, the market was expected underlying profit for the year of £151mln.

The sustainability of these profit levels into 2021 and beyond is now a key question, UBS said, but trends indicating that a degree of structural change has taken place in the level of working from home, should bode well for the company.

Go-Ahead buses in results

On the other side of the pandemic coin is the transport sector, where Go-Ahead Group PLC (LON:GOG) is joining the week's results rush Thursday and has already guided to full-year profit of £63-75mln, of which £60mln came in the first half.

The public transport industry has been supported by governmental help throughout the pandemic as passenger numbers and revenue have been squeezed heavily.

But the bus operator, which will drop out of the FTSE 250 later this month as part of the latest index reshuffle, was recently buoyed by the UK governments decision to extend the coronavirus support package for the industry indefinitely.

Meanwhile in Singapore, Go-Ahead was granted a two-year contract extension to operate 450 buses in the Loyang region, showing confidence in the companys work.

Can Morrison continue its growth streak?

Also that day, WM Morrison Supermarkets PLCs (LON:MRW) first-half results will show whether its run of 14 consecutive quarters of like-for-like sales growth has continued in the three months to July.

The Bradford-based grocer, whose shares have dipped 5% in the year to date compared to the 23% fall of the wider Footsie, like its supermarket peers enjoyed status as a necessary service through the darkest days of the pandemic.

Analysts at AJ Bell think it may just have started to keep the discounters such as Aldi and Lidl at bay after its market share rose to 10.2% in the 12 months to August.

Interim pre-tax profits are expected to rise 8% to £440mln as costs have been raising amid safety measures and bonuses to its hard-working staff. The dividend is expected to also advance by 8% to 7.32p a share.

Like his counterparts at rivals Tesco and Sainsbury's, chief executive David Potts has estimated that the increase in COVID-related costs will broadly offset the benefit of the holiday on business rates, amounting to £228mln this year, before payments recommence in April 2021.

Ashmore offers emerging market insights

For investors with an interest in emerging markets, Ashmore Group PLCs (LON:ASHM) full-year results on Friday, September 11, may be of extra interest.

Just after its June year end the fund manager reported assets under management of US$83.6bn as it faced a combination of negative flows and positive market performance, down 8.9% on the prior year.

Despite the recent market rally, the FTSE 250 group said valuations across fixed income and equity markets still offer substantial upside and opportunities for further outperformance, with emerging markets in aggregate “less likely to suffer a recession as severe as that in the developed world”.

Ashmore is expected to report much stronger net revenues than the £314mln seen a year earlier, thanks mostly to higher management fees.

Analysts at UBS expect £335mln, leading to underlying profits (EBITDA) of £216mln and EPS of 26.7p and said “investors will focus on any commentary the company provides with regards to the strength (or weakness) of flows since the end of June”.

US earnings, including Slack, Peloton and Kroger

Across the Atlantic, a trio of popular US names will also be delivering quarterly earnings next week, which is curtailed by the Labor Day holiday in the US and Canada on Monday.

Workplace messaging app group Slack Technologies Inc (NYSE:WORK) is due to deliver its earnings on Tuesday, with investors likely to be seeing whether the group ahs been one of the winners of the home working boom driving demand for employee connection software.

Following this will be digital exercise class group Peloton Interactive Inc (NASDAQ:PTON) on Wednesday. The company, which runs online spin classes and membership schemes to allow customers to partake in classes via video link, may have done well out of the pandemic as lockdown measures shuttered gyms, forcing many to work out at home.

On Friday, retail giant Kroger Co (NYSE:KR) will cap off the week with its own numbers, although shareholders may be on the lookout for any updates on the companys Amazon-like subscription-based free delivery programme, which is being enabled by Ocado (LON:OCDO), following news that rival Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT) is planning to roll out its own version, Walmart+.

Significant announcements expected for week ending 11 September:

Monday 7 September:

Trading announcements: Associated British Foods PLC (LON:ABF)

Finals: Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC (LON:DPH), SRT Marine Systems PLC (LON:SRT), Tungsten Corporation PLC (LON:TUNG)

Interims: Belvoir Group PLC (LON:BLV), Blackbird PLC (LON:BIRD), Diaceutics PLC (LON:DXRX), SigmaRoc PLC (LON:SRC)

Tuesday 8 September:

Trading announcements: Halfords Group PLC (LON:HFD), DS Smith PLC (LON:SMDSL), Ashtead Group PLC (LON:AHT)

Finals: Genus plc (LON:GNS), Alumasc Group Plc (LON:ALU), CPL Resources PLC (LON:CPS)

Interims: JD Sports Fashion PLC (LON:JD.), Meggitt PLC (LON:MGGT), Fevertree Drinks PLC (LON:FEVR), Travis Perkins PLC (LON:TPK), Vistry Group PLC (LON:VTY), Signature Aviation PLC (LON:SIG), Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX), Digitalbox PLC (LON:DBOX), DP Eurasia NV (LON:DPEU), Flowtech Fluidpower PLC (LON:FLO), Gaming Realms PLC (LON:GMR), Read More – Source