Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Astra's New Boss in the Spotlight with First Post; FORECAST

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Astra's New Boss in the Spotlight with First Post; FORECAST

Article excerpt

Byline: Iain Laing ? 0191 201 6429 ?

CONSUMER-FACING stocks will dominate the corporate agenda this week with Whitbread, Premier Foods and Debenhams due to post updates.

AstraZeneca's new chief executive Pascal Soriot will unveil his first set of figures when the drugs giant updates on Thursday.

Soriot started at the beginning of October, replacing David Brennan, who quit after a shareholder rebellion over pay and performance earlier this year. While he is expected to take a back seat at the third-quarter update, the former Roche pharmaceuticals boss has already started to make his mark at the group ahead of announcing his strategy plans in the new year.

He suspended its share buy-back programme and announced his first major deal, buying the rights to experimental kidney drugs for up to PS169m.

But he joins at a difficult time for Astra, which has been suffering from plunging sales and profits as competition from cheaper generic drugs and challenging market conditions take their toll.

Mr Kipling parent Premier Foods will reveal how it fared in recent trading after a first half that was boosted by its Great British Fancies campaign for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The St Albans-based group saw a 2% rise in interim sales of its eight frontline brands thanks in part to the launch of a patriotic range of Mr Kipling cakes and a major advertising push.

Its main brands - which also include Hovis bread, Bisto, Ambrosia and Loyd Grossman sauces - delivered a 3.2% rise in half-year trading profits to PS53.2m.

But the market will be keen for news on whether the summer of celebration surrounding the Olympics maintained strong sales in the group's third quarter update tomorrow . Investec expects a PS30m rise in pre-tax profits for this year to PS88m, but warned the second half could be hampered by rising wheat costs.

Department store Debenhams reports full-year results on Thursday after a resurgent performance in recent months. …

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