The Week Ahead: Figures due from Sainsbury’s Vodafone and Flybe

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury's.

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury's. - Credit: Archant

The struggles of the UK’s major supermarkets will remain in focus this week as Sainsbury’s reports results alongside mobile phone giant Vodafone.

The new boss of Sainbury’s will give details of a wide-ranging strategic review alongside half-year results on Wednesday, having warned that the business is facing its most turbulent period in three decades amid a fierce price war.

Investors will want to know more about chief executive Mike Coupe’s plans for a fightback and whether they will have to shoulder the burden with a smaller dividend.

The supermarket is expected to post underlying pre-tax profits of £350million, down 12.5% compared to a year ago, after it said last month that half-year like-for-like sales were down 2.1% with total revenues flat.

Mr Coupe, the chain’s former commercial director, took over at the grocer this summer following the departure of Justin King after a decade in charge.

This month, closely-watched data from Kantar Worldpanel showed Sainsbury’s quarterly sales fell 3.1% and its market share slipped to 16.1% from 16.7%. It has responded to the loss of market share by lowering prices on thousands of food lines and has switched focus for its Brand Match comparisons to Asda, which began cutting prices a year ago and is alone among the big four grocers in maintaining market share.

Sainsbury’s has declined to reassure investors about the size of its dividend amid speculation that it will be cut to help pay for its plans.

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Brokers at Exane BNP Paribas wonder if Sainsbury’s will be the first supermarket to launch a rights issue in order to secure extra funds. Market watchers also think Mr Coupe may cut back new store openings and launch a wide-ranging cost cutting drive to aise cash.

Analysts at Shore Capital conclude the supermarket sector is currently a place for shoppers rather than investors. “For now, as we have argued with respect to Morrisons and Tesco too, the big British grocers remain off-limits for investors. Earnings visibility is very limited, downgrades are not yet over and we cannot be confident about dividend flows,” the said.

Mobile phone giant Vodafone is expected to show steady progress when it reports half-year results on Tuesday as it battles to revive its European arm through a massive network upgrade. The group is due to post a 12% fall in earnings to £5.8billion as it ploughs £19bn into its Project Spring plan, which will provide wider 4G coverage in Europe and 3G coverage in emerging markets.

It is being funded through Vodafone’s 130bn US dollar (£78bn) sale of its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless to joint venture partner, Verizon. One of the biggest transactions in corporate history, it resulted in around £50bn in shares and cash being returned to shareholders.

The group has been growing strongly in emerging markets such as India, but its European arm is still weighed down by economic conditions, competition and regulator-imposed price changes.

Growing demand for 4G services has given a boost to Vodafone’s recovery hopes in Europe, as the firm has said these customers use roughly twice as much data as 3G customers.

It already has deals to stream services from Spotify, Netflix and Sky Sports and is reportedly close to unveiling another deal in the UK to offer access to Sky’s NowTV pay-as-you-go service, which includes television box sets and 13 entertainment channels such as Sky One and Sky Atlantic.

The group forecasts full-year earnings of between £11.4bn to £11.9bn.

Regional airline Flybe should show further progress with its turnaround on Wednesday after posting its first annual profit in four years in the summer.

Flybe is expected to post half-year results building on full-year pre-tax profits that swung to £8.1m, compared with a £41.1m loss a year earlier.

The upturn in profits is the result of restructuring by chief executive Saad Hammad, having cut 1,100 jobs and reduced its number of regional bases to seven from 13.

Mr Hammad said the return to profit represented the “rebirth of Flybe”, which serves 35 UK airports and now has bases in Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Manchester and Southampton.

In the first quarter of the new financial year the carrier said its load factor jumped to 75.8% in the three months to June 30, up from 66.5% a year ago as it benefited from fare promotions and more profitable routes. It added passenger revenues per seat were up 9.5% during the quarter to £52.79.

It is on track to achieve £24m of planned cost savings in this current financial year, taking the total for its turnaround plan to £71m.

Brokers at HSBC said: “The pace at which Flybe is restructuring impresses us.” HSBC forecasts annual pre-tax profit will fall 21% to £6.4m in 2015, as the airline continues to cut capacity before adding more profitable routes in following years.