UK's largest cinema operator suffers admissions fall

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CineworldThe UK's largest cinema operator Cineworld will look to a higher calibre film roster in the second half of the year when it unveils under-pressure box office admissions on Thursday.
The group, which has 79 cinemas and 811 screens, reported a drop in admissions for the first six months of 2012 but it was able to boost revenues by hiking prices. This is expected to help lift pre-tax profits by 10% to £13.6 million for the six months to June, but the group is expected to reveal lacklustre trading in July.


Whilst the timing of the Olympics has hit the business, Cineworld will benefit from a strong film schedule including the latest James Bond movie Skyfall, The Hobbit and science-fiction blockbuster Total Recall.

And the group has capitalised on Olympic fever by showing major events in 3D in its cinemas, as it did with Andy Murray's Wimbledon final against Roger Federer.

Meanwhile, a resurgent new car market is set to drive record half-year sales at car dealership Lookers on Wednesday.

The Manchester-based group, which has more than 120 franchise dealerships selling 31 marques, has seen its share price increase 30% since the start of 2012 after sales of new cars returned to growth and it outperformed the market.

When the group last updated the City, in May, it said it had enjoyed an excellent first quarter of 2012, with new car sales up 6% and used car volumes ahead 11%. Since then, industry figures for the new car market have suggested that people have shrugged off austerity Britain and returned to car showrooms in force.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed sales jumped 9.3% to 143,884 in July, representing the fastest rate of growth for two years and the fifth month of growth in a row. Total sales in the first seven months were 3.5% higher at 1.2 million and the trade body raised its full-year forecasts by 30,000 to 1.9 million vehicles.

Lookers, which owns the Charles Hurst brand in Northern Ireland and Taggarts in Scotland, is expected to benefit from these trends in its half-year results.

Panmure Gordon analyst Mike Allen predicts the group will outperform the industry in both new and used car sales and thinks sales of prestige cars may have been particularly strong. He estimates that revenues will rise 2.5% to £1 billion, while underlying profits will increase 3.5% to £23.5 million, surpassing a record of £22.7 million set two years ago.

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