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Packed diary ahead, as Entain, Primark, BHP joined by Netflix, Goldman as US earnings season warms up

Jan 14, 2022

Follow Oliver on: Packed diary ahead, as Entain, Primark, BHP joined by Netflix, Goldman as US earnings season warms up Others updating include JD Wetherspoon, Taylor Wimpey, Rio Tinto, AJ Bell and CMC Markets Will is be as dramatic as a Netflix costume number? Another packed diary looms ahead for the coming week, with US earnings season adding to the range of news for investors to peruse, along with important UK employment and inflation numbers. The week will begin with an update from housebuilder Taylor Wimpey PLC (LSE:TW.) and emerging markets asset manager Ashmore PLC, with following days including mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP, Primark owner AB Foods, bookmaker Entain, publican JD Wetherspoons, retail investment groups AJ Bell and CMC Markets Full year completions of 13,930 are expected for the FTSE 100 housebuilder, around 90% of 2019 level, predicted UBS, with an average selling price (ASP) of £296k. Including the contribution from Spain, UBS analysts expect group revenues of £4.2bn and underlying earnings (EBIT) of £820mln, in line with previous guidance, and net cash of around £22mln above guidance £700mln. For 2022, the market is expecting EBIT of around £903mln. “While there will likely not be formal guidance for 2022, we expect +5% volume growth, slight ASP decline (-0.5%) and operating margins of 20.0% resulting in EBIT of £883mln,” said UBS. Less for Ashmore For Ashmore’s second quarter another difficult period is expected, following the US$1bn of net outflows reported in its first as emerging markets remained challenging. Consensus forecasts are already moving lower to reflect the headwinds to assets under management, said broker Peel Hunt. “We also note that after a period of GBP weakening, there is likely to be some FX impact, as currency trends have reversed over the last few weeks. “To some extent, the share price already reflects the expectation of lower forecasts, having fallen 25% over the last six months.” Tuesday 18 January Miner improvements? Big mining shares have perked up since November on the back of huge dividend payments and a rally in iron ore and copper prices. Rio Tinto PLC (LSE:RIO) and BHP PLC are both scheduled to update on production next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, though there is still scope for more cash to be handed analysts are expecting a cautious tone. As these are production updates, they don’t normally contain much financial information but cost pressures in terms of power, raw materials, labour and freight are a concern across the industry. Sector peer Anglo American has already flagged inflation of 10% in 2021 and if other miners mention them this time as well that will be a big red flag, say analysts. Consensus forecasts for Rio are for iron ore output in 2021 to be down by about 4% with a forecast expected for a rise by the same amount in 2022. Decline expected for 888 888 Holdings PLC (LSE:888) is set report a trading update on Tuesday, with investors waiting to see the impact Dutch regulations will have had over the final quarter of 2021. The Netherlands gambling authority introduced a new policy which forced the company to cease trading in the country at least until the second half of 2022, with the rule forecast to put a US$10mln dent in 2022 underlying earnings (EBITDA). Final-quarter revenues are expected have fallen year-on-year against tough comparisons, even though the group recently added Virginia to its roster of sports betting licenses in the US. “The share price has been weak since shortly after the announcement of the William Hill acquisition, and we believe it is likely to remain so until clarity emerges,” said broker Peel Hunt, 888 agree to buy William Hill’s non-US business from Caesars Entertainment, and lately said it hopes the deal can be completed within the current quarter. UK jobs update A month we had data showing UK unemployment fall to a 15-month low of 4.2% in October, with the number of people on payrolls rising by over 257k in November, and the number of vacancies rising to 1.22mln. The headline ILO unemployment number for November is expected to come in at 4.2% While average weekly earnings have fallen back to 4.3% from 6% in October, the overall trend looks set to continue during November, said Michael Hewson at CMC Markets, who sees it as “unlikely” that earnings will fall much further given the number of vacancies available. “We’ve already seen in recent weeks the likes of Next and Sainsbury’s announce wage rises in line with current inflation levels, and they are unlikely to be alone as their rivals look to match them in order to keep staff.” The UK labour market withstood the end of the furlough scheme last September pretty well, economists at ING said. “Redundancies have stayed stable, and we expect next week’s data to echo the favourable hiring backdrop. “But what matters most for the Bank of England are wages, and the jury’s still out on where they are headed. As various data distortions fade, it looks like wage growth is roughly where it was pre-pandemic, which is a key part of the Bank’s hiking rationale. There’s also some evidence that pay rises have been larger in more short-staffed sectors, like IT and transport. Whether we’re headed for a wage-price spiral though, we’re less convinced.” Wednesday 19 January Ladbrokes owner onto a winner in the US Entain PLC (LSE:ENT) said it will publish a trading update for its US joint venture BetMGM on Wednesday, with a wider group update from the FTSE 100-listed group pencilled in for Thursday. Analysts are expecting more positive news, as the bookie reported a 4% gain in revenues year-on-year in its third-quarter results, despite high growth in the comparative period the year before. In a note from Citigroup in the past week, it reinforced its ‘buy’ rating for the Ladbrokes owner, as well as rival Flutter, expecting their dominance in the new US betting market to continue. After US rival DraftKings walked away from offer talks in October after making a £16.2bn bid for Entain, the question of M&A still lingers. Under the City’s code on takeovers, Draftkings can’t return with a bid for at least six months (ie late April) unless another bidder emerges for Entain, with BetMGM partner MGM Resorts International (NSX:MGM) seen as one such potential suitor. Spoons-ful of losses? A trading update from JD Wetherspoon Plc (LSE:JDW) presents another opportunity for the company’s chairman, Tim Martin, to get his soapbox out. Brexit, tax handicaps for pubs (compared to retailers) and the government’s handling of the pandemic are regular themes, with the latter occupying the voluble Mr Martin of late. “As previously reported, there have been no outbreaks, as defined by the health authorities, of Covid-19 among customers in Wetherspoon pubs,” Martin said in last month’s update. Well, no reported outbreaks, at least. Somewhere in the rant about the government’s mercurial policy on the Covid-19 outbreak was some actual reference to profits, with Martin suggesting the pubs group’s first-half results “may be loss-making or marginally profitable”. UK inflation The UK consumer price index hit 5.1% last time, which was much higher than expected and also a ten year high, with the RPI index hitting a 30 year high of 7.1%. This seemed a key reason behind the Bank of England last month deciding to increase interest rates by 0.15% to 0.25%, although this move had been more widely expected the month before. Producer price growth hitting 14.3% November suggested there is potential for UK headline inflation to move even higher, above the 2008 highs of 5.2% and to levels last seen in March 1992, when it was up at 7.1%. The BoE’s perceived lack of conviction or confidence has reignited speculation about another hike before long, with Michael Hewson at CMC Markets saying “we could see another rate rise in February, particularly since there is likely to be further inflationary pressures in the weeks and months ahead”. Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has already said that he expects CPI to hit 6% in the coming months, which well above the central banks 2% inflation target. “A further increase in headline CPI this week will increase the pressure on the MPC to act on rates again in February, and while some are arguing that another rate rise will have little impact on what is prompting inflation to let rip, that doesn’t mean the central bank shouldn’t attempt to try and normalise policy to a point,” said Hewson. “The mistake would be tightening too aggressively, not tightening at all.” Thursday 20 January Primark to market Primark owner Associated British Foods PLC (LSE:ABF) joins the retail post-Christmas fray on Thursday, following an update in mid-December that it was increasing prices at its famously cheap fast-fashion chain as it struggled with the closures of some European stores, supply chain disruption and higher costs. This Omicron-related squeeze might not be entirely over yet, so the FTSE 100-listed group’s outlook and guidance will be the thing to watch. “We’re keen to get management’s take on the potential pitfalls ahead,” said analyst Laura Hoy at Hargreaves Lansdown. Last time, the board expected Primark sales to be “significantly better” than sales in the comparable period in the last financial year, from December 2020 to April 2021, when the estate was largely closed. Says Hoy: “Impressive stock control at Primark plus business as usual at its Grocery, Sugar, Ingredients and Agriculture segments meant the group was able to weather the storm. “However, despite easing restrictions, conditions are tough for retailers — ABF included.” Trading and investing in focus Mid-cap financials are in focus as CMC Markets PLC (LSE:CMCX) and AJ Bell PLC (LSE:AJB) both put out trading statements providing insights on the same day to how the trading and investment platform sub-sectors enjoyed the last quarter of 2021. After the easing of the lockdown boom that lifted all boats, things proved a bit stickier for trading-based businesses. CMC reported revenues fell by 45% in its latest half year while active customer numbers dropped by 9%, though this is still well up on the pre-pandemic total. The spread-better has also started an exploratory review into breaking-up into two separate businesses. This would see a splitting off its contracts-for-difference (CFD) operations, labelled as the ‘leveraged’ business, from its growing investment platform and business-to-business operations. More news on that might add some zip to a share price that has been flat now for about four months as trading volumes have stabilised. Wealth platform group AJ Bell meanwhile has responded to the emergence of newer app-based rivals by launching its own product - Dodl, a commission-free app that targets younger investors. A Bell’s high profit margins are the target for low-or-no-fee rivals such as Freetrade and e-Toro, and chief executive Andy Bell has already suggested the FTSE 250 group might sacrifice some profitability to maintain its market position. “The mistake would be to try to protect profit margins. We need to broaden our reach by going for the younger, less experienced investors,” Bell told reporters when it launched Dodl. “But we are not looking for the GameStop investor, or for people who want to day trade.” AJ Bell recorded net inflows of £6.4bn during its last financial year with total assets under administration closing at a record £72.8bn and, again, how these have changed in a period of relatively stable markets will be things to note. Friday 21 January Brothers gonna work it out? Close Brothers Group (LSE:CBG) PLC will release its scheduled pre-close trading update on Friday, covering the financial half-year ending 31 January 2022. The company said in November it had made an encouraging start to the new financial year, with a strong performance in Banking and good growth momentum in Close Brothers Asset Management. The fly in the ointment was its Winterflood Securities, its market-making arm, where trading income continued to moderate since the end of the 2021 financial year. UK retail sales Although the majority of retailers reporting have been bullish, economists at ING expect a fall in UK retail sales after a bumper November, following what appears to have been a stronger-than-usual Black Friday trading period. "What’s less clear is if the arrival of Omicron, and reduced spending at social venues, translated into a boost for goods purchases, like we saw in past Covid waves. "We suspect that effect will be much less pronounced, and short-lived, with early hints that consumers are less cautious about visiting hospitality venues than they were just before Christmas." Significant announcement expected from 17-20 January Monday 17 January

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