The week ahead: United Utilities and Thomas Cook
M&B, after some time in the wilderness caused by its disastrous foray into the property business, is starting to look respectable again, and a reasonable performance is expected -- we should be seeing the first decent profit since 2006.
There will be a return to paying a dividend too -- at the current 223p price, the yield should be around 3%. That might not be an income investor's dream, but it's not unreasonable considering the debt burden the company has to tackle. The share price is up since Joe Lewis's recent cheeky takeover attempt, but in the medium to longer term it probably has further to go.
Meanwhile, Enterprise is still struggling under massive debts of more than 20 times its market cap. That's helped push the share price down to a measly 30p, for a forward P/E of a stunning 1.3 -- but that's what happens when your earnings are pretty much all owed to your creditors. Profit is expected to be getting back to decent levels, but of dividend there will be none -- and there are unlikely to be any for quite some time in this dire situation.
We'll have interims from some others in the sector too, with Young & Co (LSE: YNGA) reporting half-time figures on Thursday, and Fuller, Smith & Turner (LSE: FSTA) doing the same on Friday. Both have stuck to doing what they do well, and as a result investors have seen their share prices perform nicely too.
Water, gas, phones...
Some of the cash cows of the multi-utility world will be presenting their half-time figures too, with United Utilities (LSE: UU) reporting on Wednesday, Pennon Group (LSE: PNN) on Thursday, and Severn Trent (LSE: SVT) doing the same on Friday.
All are pretty much in the same boat, with relatively predictable incomes and a strategy of providing decent dividends -- yields of around the 4-5% range are expected for the full year.
Telecom Plus (LSE: TEP), which trades as The Utility Warehouse, is a utility company with a difference, adding telecoms services to the bundle. It's doing very well, and will report its interim figures on Tuesday -- and it's pre-close statement last month was pretty positive. Profits and dividends have been rising steadily, and the share price has more than doubled in the past two years. And although growth might be slowing a little, it's expected to continue for some time yet.
Moving on to a pure telecoms company, KCOM Group (LSE: KCOM), formerly Kingston Communications, will report its half-year figures the same day, and they're expected to be pretty decent.While much of the stock market has been in a panic, KCOM has just steadily carried on its business, growing profits and dividends and cutting debts. And it's been paying off -- at the current price of 74p, the shares are on a prospective P/E of under 11 with a forecast dividend of around 5.5%.
In other news next week, we should have full-year results from troubled travel agent Thomas Cook (LSE: TCG), which has been teetering on the brink but should now have sufficient backing from its bankers to survive the thin winter season -- but I wouldn't be holding out for much of a dividend.
And we'll have third-quarter figures from mining giant Antofagasta (LSE: ANTO) and the much smaller London Mining (LSE: LOND) on Thursday. With commodity prices being erratic of late, mining shares have suffered. A high risk punt, or a sector in which to seek bargains? We shall see.
Notable announcements next week:
Monday: Diploma, Invista Foundation Property Trust, Mitie Group
Tuesday: Enterprise Inns, Mitchells & Butlers, Optos, Paragon Group Of Companies, Renew Holdings, Big Yellow Group, CML Microsystems, FFastFill, Halma, Hamworthy, Samuel Heath & Sons, Homeserve (HSV), Intermediate Capital Group, KCOM Group, Telecom Plus
Wednesday: Avon Rubber, Compass Group, Assura Group, Hyder Consulting, Mckay Securities, QinetiQ Group, United Utilities Group
Thursday: Future, Grainger, Thomas Cook Group, Dixons Retail, Helical Bar, James Latham, PayPoint, Pennon Group, Severn Trent, Young & Co's Brewery, Antofagasta, London Mining
Friday: Fuller Smith & Turner