5 dates for your diaries
Glencore International has attracted a fair bit of attention since it hit the FTSE 100 back in May 2011, much of it for the wrong reasons after the share price promptly flopped. At 432p, it's still way below its 530p flotation price, but I think the mining and commodities giant's interim statement and Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 9 May will be well worth a look.
The company's planned merger with Xstrata, would create a £50bn behemoth to rival even the world's biggest miner, BHP Billiton. The two companies' combined coal, metals and minerals businesses would make quite an impact, and could help stir a response from the market.
And that's the other thing: the slowdown in the sector caused by economic fears and the threat of a Chinese slowdown. The interim statement will include a production report and, together with the AGM, it should hopefully shed some light on the way demand is going.
That demand will inevitably be strong in the longer term, and we might well be in a good buying opportunity for the sector.
Lloyds, 17 May
AGM season is in full swing, and though they might not sound too exciting, there have been a few shareholder revolts of late.
A big noise was made when Barclays (LSE: BARC) shareholders convened recently, and it forced the board to rethink the way it rewards its executives. And shareholder pressure on AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) was behind the early retirement of its beleaguered chief.
But this week, Lloyds announced a first quarter profit! Okay, it was only £2m after tax, but with all manner of exceptionals, the underlying performance looked better than that.
But with the share price still badly depressed, it's hard to gauge the mood regarding Lloyds at the moment. It will be intriguing to see how shareholders react on the day.
Vodafone (LSE: VOD), 22 May
One of the strongest and most reliable dividends of the past few years has come from Vodafone. For that reason, preliminary results from the multinational communications giant on 22 May should be essential reading for all.
Vodafone isn't one to sit back and wait out the economic hard times, but has the means to take advantage of opportunities that come along, as we saw with last week's confirmation of a 38p per share bid for Cable and Wireless Worldwide . A few words about that will be welcomed.
Profits are expected to be scaled back a bit this year, but analysts are still forecasting a dividend yield of more than 7%, based on today's share price of 172p. And earnings forecasts put the shares on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 11, which is below the FTSE 100 average.
KCOM Group releases results the same day, so it'll be an important one for telecoms watchers.
Halfords, 31 May
Turning to a smaller company, I reckon full-year results from Halfords will be well worth a look.
The shares have been dumped during the slump, and today stand on a price of 278p, having lost nearly a third of their value over the past 12 months alone. And the immediate market response to the firm's pre-close update in early April was not one of unbridled enthusiasm.
The shares are trading at below the sector average, and there's a decent dividend expected, so why are they so depressed? I think the full results, and the reaction to them, will be useful indicators in two ways. Obviously, they'll tell us how the business is looking (and I expect it to look strong, if modest). Hopefully we'll also get some feel for how sentiment towards the shares is going, and I think that is one of the main factors holding them back.
Buffett, 5 May
And finally, leaving the soonest till last, Saturday the 5th brings us one of the most keenly awaited events on the shareholders' calendar -- the annual meeting of Warren Buffett's immensely successful Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A).
Buffett is renowned for his unique way of telling it how it is, and that is usually enough to get the rapt attention of the faithful. But this year, the recent announcement of Buffett's prostate cancer will have focused investors on his mortality (though the fact that he's 81 and human surely can't have escaped notice). We wish him well.