Updates from FTSE 100 groups GVC Holdings and Hargreaves Lansdown, along with retailers Dunelm, N Brown and Quiz should answer some questions for investors in the coming week.
There are also some important data releases due, particularly Stateside, that could provide a stronger steer on what policymakers will do next, along with yet more Brexit machinations to drag the pound around like a rag doll.
But they have since fallen by a quarter, amid extra scrutiny of the company as its close relationship and continued backing of fund manager Neil Woodford’s open-ended fund even after it was gated in June after a long period of weak performance led to a surge in redemptions.
Alongside August’s final results HL boss Chris Hill said the groups own business flows and service levels “held up well”, but analysts said potential disruption from Woodford would have happened too late in the year to have any material impact on those results.
A first-quarter update on Thursday comes against a relatively subdued market backdrop and perhaps some of that Woodford effect.
HL fell short of its performance targets for fund flows, new clients and profit before tax in its 2019 financial year, analysts at Credit Suisse noted recently, estimating that underlying net fund flows have slowed from £6.9bn in 2017 to £6.1bn in the two years since and that “momentum is starting to look challenging”.
Although HL investors, many of whom are likely to have pensions or ISA on the FTSE 100 company’s platform, still admire its strong margins and ability to keep grabbing more market share, helped by its new Active Savings offer, a valuation of around 35 times full year earnings looks a bit too pricey for the Swiss bank.
GVC’s regulatory issues going away?
Ladbrokes and Partypoker owner GVC will publish a third-quarter update on Wednesday, with its shares climbing by more than a third since its half-year numbers in mid-August.
These share price gains have recouped only some of the losses since last summer, which have been due to wider UK regulatory concerns about bookmakers’ betting machines and share sales by the company’s CEO and chairman in March.
With strong momentum across “all divisions” into the second quarter, cost cutting and a “clear roadmap” for the US as a number of states legalise sports betting, management guided to full-year underlying profits £10mln ahead of expectations at that time.
“Since then the US joint venture has launched sports-betting under the BetMGM brand and the State of New Jersey will shortly publish September revenue figures which will see what kind of initial success this has had,” said broker Peel Hunt, which sees the shares as still “materially undervalued”.
Regulatory concerns still linger, however, in the UK and Germany, so this will be an area investors may look for more guidance, while the sector has been in the headlines in the past week for rival Flutter Entertainment PLC’s (LON@FLTR) merger with Canada’s Stars Group.
Peel Hunt said it is “not out of the question” that GVC could counteroffer for Stars once the various competition authorities have ruled on the deal, but the combined debt load “might be too great for investors to stomach”.
Mixed weather ahead for easyJet
Ahead of both those updates, easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) will touch down with a pre-close trading update on Tuesday.
Forecasts for the budget airline are mixed and the wider travel industry outlook remains turbulent as the Thomas Cook’s collapse shows.
EasyJet reported a record £275mln loss for its first half, back in May, but analysts reckon it could be on course for a record profit in the second half.
Even so, full-year earnings will still be well below 2018’s number, as higher costs offset a surge in sales.
Non-fuel costs will be a key area of focus for investors following a 4% drop in the third quarter, while the impact of a spike in oil prices in September following a military strike on Saudi Arabian oil fields will also be eyed.
Analysts at UBS expect the airline to confirm its full-year profit guidance of between £400-440mln.
Also on Tuesday we will hear from industrial and electronic products distributor Electrocomponents PLC (LON:ECM), which is expected to report a continuing softening in sales growth during the second quarter.
The first three months of its financial year saw like-for-like (LFL) revenue growth weakening to 4% from 8% in the previous quarter due to softer electronics performance, offset by stronger numbers in industrial.
Management acknowledged the more uncertain external macroeconomic environment may weigh on the second quarter but felt the group was well positioned to deliver progress in the year.
UBS expects LFL growth from the FTSE 250-listed group will slow to 3% between July and September, although the Swiss bank expects numbers to pick up from the second half onwards.
Electrocomponents predicted broadly stable gross margins for the full year, with the first half likely to be impacted by efforts to diversify the portfolio by investing into broader electronics offerings.
Investors will focus on commentary around the market environment in the trading statement coming out on Tuesday, which may also include comments on the financial year outlook against general consensus.
Good momentum eyed from Dunelm
Homewares retailer Dunelm Group plc (LON:DNLM) has so far managed to avoid most of the gloom affecting Britain’s retail sector, unveiling a plump special dividend of 32p in its final results in September as profits jumped 35%.
Earlier this year Dunelm’s shares emerged from two years in the darkness but have been flat the past six months and investors will be thinking where next.
A first-quarter trading update for its current year on Thursday will show whether the firm has managed to maintain its momentum, with its online and furniture segments spied as key growth areas.
UBS is expecting the company to deliver an 11% increase in like-for-like sales in the quarter, although cautioned that the warm start to September may have dented trading slightly.
Higher or fire for recruiter pair
The last time we heard from them, both were complaining that UK employers were holding off hiring more staff due to Brexit uncertainty, with Robert Walters’ UK profits dipping 8% to £25.2mln in the second quarter, and Page Group down 0.3%.
Analysts at AJ Bell said the recruiters’ trading statements should make for interesting reading at a time when low jobless rates appear to be stoking some wage growth.
“The danger is that unemployment is a lagging indicator, owing to the lead times involved in firms feeling confident enough to hire and then the process of finding the best candidate.”
Investors will also be looking at the split between permanent and temporary hires after Robert Walters reported in the second quarter that fees from temporary hires rose faster than those from permanent ones for the first time since 2017.
“Generally the more confident employers are the more likely they are to take on full-time staff, while they may favour temps if the outlook is a bit less certain,” said AJ Bell.
When fashion retailer N Brown PLC’s (LON:BWNG) releases its half-year results on Thursday, investors will also be looking to see whether it can revive sales which dropped 3.8% in the first quarter.
The group, whose brands include JD Williams, Simply Be, Ambrose Wilson and Jacamo, has recently taken itself online-only, closing all 20 of its stores.
This move comes after the group’s shares have lost two thirds of their value in the past couple of years while some other digital fashion houses are trending with shoppers and investors.
After swinging to a loss in the last year but providing a more optimistic outlook early in the summer, N Brown’s shareholders were then spooked last month by the announcement it was setting aside an extra £20mln-£30mln to pay off mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) claims.
The clothing group also upped its full-year net debt guidance by £20mln-30mln to £460mln-£490mln.
Another clothing retailer that’s not proved a fashionable investment is Quiz (LON:QUIZ), which is scheduled to post a trading update on Friday, a month after discussing “difficult” market conditions at its AGM.
The womenswear brand said the period between April and August reported revenues “broadly in line” with last year, after adjusting for the closure of stores and terminations of third-party online contracts.
Group revenue for the six months to September 2018 was £66.7mln, up 19% year-on-year, although full-year revenue of £130.9mln was behind expectations.
The AIM-listed firm ended up scrapping its final dividend after its full-year pre-tax profit slumped by 97% due to costs related to the collapse of House of Fraser and an increased level of discounting.
Consumer uncertainty continues to loom over the outlook, with analysts expecting flat earnings performance for 2020 and suggesting stability as the main goal.
With hints in the past week that headwinds are building for the US economy, particularly its manufacturing sector, the coming week will tap the economic barometer again.
After the ISM manufacturing survey showed its weakest reading for 10 years, economists at ING observed that “weak global growth in an environment of dollar strength is creating a tough environment to export into and a long and fraught trade battle is amplifying the downside risks for growth”.
The implication of the industrial data is that profitability is under threat and businesses are becoming more nervous about the economic outlook and are pulling back on investment and hiring.
In the week ahead, there will be small businesses survey from the NFIB to show how this part of the economy is faring, while the University of Michigan confidence index is also expected to see some softening.
“Inflation is broadly in line with the target so we expect to hear Federal Reserve officials indicate a willingness to offer more stimulus in the coming months,” ING said, while predicting the next Fed meeting will result in a further 25 basis point rate cuts in December and in early 2020.
UK gross domestic product data on Thursday will cover the month of August so lags the past week’s PMI surveys, which cover September, so is only likely to confirm what the market already thinks it knows.
“That means that the GDP data won’t reflect the deterioration in the PMIs shown in the latest survey,” said RBC Capital Markets, expecting the week’s estimate will show GDP growth accelerate to 0.1% on a three-month basis from 0% previously.
“Do not mistake that for some measure of the underlying health of the UK economy. Brexit distortions are the main reason we expect growth to pick-up.”
Significant announcements expected for Monday 7 October:
Interims: Angling Direct (LON:ANG)
Economic data: Halifax house price index, German factory orders, US consumer credit, Fed chair Powell speech
Tuesday 8 October:
Finals: YouGov PLC (LON:YOU)
Economic data: UK retail sales, US producer prices, US NFIB small business optimism, Powell speaks again
Wednesday 9 October:
Economic data: US Fed policy minutes, US MBA mortgage applications
Thursday 10 October:
Interims: N Brown Group plc (LON:BWNG), Morses Club PLC (LON:MCL), OnTheMarket PLC (LON:OTMP)
Economic data: RICS housing market survey, UK GDP, UK index of services, ECB policy minutes, US initial jobless claims, US consumer price inflation
Friday 11 October:
Trading statement: Quiz PLC (LON:QUIZ)
Economic data: German CPI, US Michigan confidence index