The week ahead – Paddy Power Betfair, Unilever and Sky

Reporting season continues at pace, so below are some of the key points to keep an eye out for in the trading updates from Paddy Power Betfair, Unilever and Sky, from Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
20 January 2017

1.    Monday 23 January: trading statement from Paddy Power Betfair

  • The FTSE 100 bookmaker has never truly explained the strategic rationale for the Paddy Power-Betfair merger, barring perhaps some cost synergies and the fact that CEO Breon Corcoran ran Paddy Power before Betfair – and the lack of clarity has weighed on the shares since the deal’s consummation in Jan 2016.

  • Rival bookies William Hill (missed expectations) and the newly-merged Ladbrokes Coral (met expectations) have both bemoaned punter-friendly horse racing and football results in the fourth quarter and particularly over Christmas, though both are much weaker online than Paddy Power Betfair.

  • Also watch for any commentary on the new horserace betting levy (10.75% on all profits over £500,000 from 1 April, applying to all bets regardless of whether they are online/offshore or in a shop) and the Government review of wagering on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) although the latter again is more of an issue for Hills and Ladbrokes-Coral.

2.    Thursday 26 January: Unilever full-year results

The Anglo-Dutch food to personal care and hygiene giant was in the news late last year when it came to blows with Tesco over price increases for Marmite and did not apparently get everything it wanted. Pricing power is the secret to the company’s huge range of brands and without it Unilever has a problem, so these results should be very informative. There are four things to watch:

  1. Underlying sales growth - Unilever has a target of 3% to 5% a year. Q3 came in at the low end of that range and for Q4 Unilever’s own website suggests that the analysts’ consensus forecast is for just 2.8%, comprising 0.2% volume growth and 2.6% in price increases.

  2. Reported profits - at the operating level, analysts are looking for €8 billion for the year just ended, with an operating margin of 15.2%, compared to 14.8% last year, helped by a group-wide drive to cut costs by €1bn by 2018.

  3. Any profits guidance for 2017. Again at the operating level, analysts are looking for an 8% increase to €8.6 billion and another 40 basis point hike in operating margin to 15.6%.

  4. India, which could act as a big drag on Q4, owing to Prime Minister Modi’s demonetisation plan. It has caused chaos and could easily affect Unilever’s numbers.

3.    Thursday 26 January: First-half results from Sky

Much attention will focus on the £10.75-a-share bid from 21st Century Fox and whether the second Murdoch attempt to take Sky private will succeed.

Before the bid, the share price has been sagging amid fears over slowing profits growth, amid hotter competition for content from Netflix and others and also increased churn rates as Sky sought to increase prices. To see whether these fears are still well founded or not, there are five metrics to watch:

  • How close Sky is getting to its target of 5% to 7% annual revenue growth (H1 revenues last year were £5.7bn and operating profit £747 million)

  • Progress in a £300 million cost-cutting programme

  • New customer adds, which were 471,000 in the first half a year ago

  • And finally any comment on the Italian and German operations, where profitability was pretty marginal last year

  • Whether Sky can maintain a fabulous unbroken run of dividend increases; the first-half pay-out last year was 12.6p.


Monday 23 January

  • Trading update from FTSE 250 miner Petra Diamonds

  • In the USA, quarterly results from oil services giant Halliburton and McDonald’s.

Tuesday 24 January

  • Full-year results from house builder Crest Nicholson

  • Trading statements from easyJet, Dixons Carphone and BHP Billiton

  • Supreme Court judgement on whether Parliament gets a vote on Brexit or not; High Court asserted in December that the PM did not have authority to invoke Article 50 without approval

  • Latest UK Government borrowing figures

  • Latest monthly existing home sales figures from the USA

  • In Europe, quarterly results from Philips, SAP, Banco Santander and Novartis

  • In the US, quarterly results from investment bank 3M, DR Horton, Johnson & Johnson and Lockheed Martin.

Wednesday 25 January

  • Trading statements from WHSmith and Restaurant Group (Frankie & Benny’s, Garfunkels)

  • Latest monthly Belgian industrial sentiment survey the Courbe Synthetique

  • Latest monthly German Ifo industrial sentiment survey

  • Latest weekly US oil inventory data

  • In Europe, results from luxury goods group LVMH, Fiat-Chrysler and Ericsson

  • In the USA, results from Boeing and Procter & Gamble

Thursday 26 January

  • Interim results from Diageo

  • Trading statements from CMC Markets, Sage, SSP (Upper Crust and Ritazza snack bars), St. James’s Place and Whitbread (Costa Coffee and Premier Inn)

  • First estimate (of three) for UK GDP growth in Q4 2016 – consensus is c.2%

  • BBA mortgage approvals data in the UK

  • Monthly US new homes sales data

  • In the USA, quarterly results from Alphabet, Intel, Microsoft, Ford, Hershey and Starbucks

Friday 27 January

  • Quarterly results from BT

  • First estimate (of three) for US GDP growth in Q4 2016 – consensus is 1.9%-2.3%

  • In the USA, quarterly results from Chevron and Colgate-Palmolive

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