Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Heavyweights All Ready to Weigh in with Results

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Heavyweights All Ready to Weigh in with Results

Article excerpt

Byline: By Phil Waller And David Winning

Major companies in oil, mining, chemicals, energy and transport are among those reporting this week.

Airports operator BAA is set to report a slight decline in pre-tax profits to pounds 440m for the three months to December 31 when it updates the market on trading today.

Higher passenger numbers through its seven UK terminals, including a 6.2pc increase last month, have lifted the group, although its results are expected to reflect higher staff and maintenance costs.

BAA's share price has recovered following Sars and the Iraq war in 2003 and has recently been boosted by a favourable Government white paper on planned airport capacity in the UK over the next 30 years and a positive update on the construction of Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

The surge in commodity and base metal prices during the second half of 2003 will have boosted Rio Tinto, but analysts expect the mining group to post a 12pc decline in full-year profits to pounds 1.17bn today.

Its results will reflect the significant strength of the Australian dollar as the company generates around 60pc of its earnings and 45pc of its operating costs Down Under, according to fund manager Gerrard.

Rio is well placed to benefit from the recent rises in iron ore contract prices of about 18pc, which exceeded expectations, and robust growth conditions this year with continued strength from China.

Scottish Power is expected to cut quarterly dividend payments by 34pc when it reports on trading during the three months to December 31 on Wednesday, matching similar reductions in the two previous quarters.

Analysts hope the energy group will give some guidance on the likelihood of an improvement in the next dividend payment in the light of its financial performance so far, with pre-tax profits set to rise 3pc to pounds 259m in the third quarter.

Operating profits are forecast to show a 2.2pc decline to pounds 310m following lower generation and supply profits due to higher gas costs and flat profits from its Power Systems and Pacificorp arms.

Investors will be hoping for good news about the Quest flavours and fragrance division of ICI when the chemicals and paint group reports final results on Thursday. …

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