The Week Ahead: Results due from Royal Dutch Shell, Diageo and BT
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Figures from Royal Dutch Shell, BT and Diageo will this week signal the start of a busy period for corporate results.
Royal Dutch Shell will attempt to show that it is able to ride out the new era of low oil prices when it posts its full-year results on Thursday.
London-listed Shell, which employs 90,000 people in more than 70 countries, is expected to report full-year earnings up 5.4% to 17.6billion US dollars (£11.6bn) as it sells non-core assets and scraps projects following the oil price slump.
The moves forms part of the strategy of chief executive Ben van Beurden who took the helm a year ago this month and said he wanted the oil giant to improve operational performance and financial results.
Last week the Anglo-Dutch firm abandoned a 6.5bn US dollars (£4.3bn) plan to build one of the world’s biggest petrochemical plants in Qatar with rival Qatar Petroleum.
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Shell said the cost of the plant made it “commercially unfeasible, particularly in the current economic climate prevailing in the energy industry.”
This move came amid a flurry of activity among oil producers to scale-back new investment in light of oil prices that have dropped by more than half since the summer.
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Premier Oil recently said it would delay a final decision on whether to proceed with the 2bn US dollars (£1.3bn) Sea Lion production project off the Falkland Islands until there was a recovery in oil prices and Norway’s Statoil has handed back three exploration licences on the west coast of Greenland.
Last year Shell announced plans to sell a range of assets in the North Sea, Nigeria and the US as the industry cuts costs as a result of the fall in the oil price. Shell’s cost cutting began this time last year, six months ahead of the oil price collapse.
The market has supported Shell’s strategy sending its shares down just 1% over the last 12 months. By comparison London-listed rival BP has seen its shares fall by almost 16% in the same period.
BT reports third quarter figures on Friday amid an ongoing battle with Sky and other rivals over internet customers and TV football while it also shapes up for a return to the mobile market.
The telecoms giant has been bolstered by its offer of Premier League live matches to broadband subscribers, helping it to lead the race to sign them up.
However, second quarter net additions, though still ahead of the field, were squeezed to 88,000, their lowest level in two years, as competitors, who also include TalkTalk, lured customers with low price deals.
BT is in the middle of a three-year £738m deal to show 38 top-flight football games a season, muscling in on Sky’s turf.
There has been intensifying speculation that it will try to elbow the satellite broadcaster aside by paying more than £1bn a year to take over Sky’s majority share of televised matches, with the latest bidding process under way. It has already outspent Sky in snapping up Champions League rights from next season in a three-year deal worth £897m.
Meanwhile, BT has also been involved in a high profile return to the mobile phone market, last month announcing that it was in exclusive talks to buy the EE network for £12.5bn.
It sees the move as a part of a convergence of fixed and mobile services, with customers seamlessly transferring from their home broadband connection to the mobile network. It has already launched a business mobile service in a tie-up with EE.
The results will come a week after Hutchison Whampoa, owner of rival mobile operator Three, announced it was in talks over a £10bn deal to buy O2, which started life as BT Cellnet before being spun off in 2001, in a move which would create the UK market’s biggest player.
An average of City analysts’ forecasts for the third quarter puts BT pre-tax profits before exceptional items at £784m, up nearly 9% from £722m from the same period a year before.
Diageo, the drinks group behind brands including Smirnoff and Guinness, is expected to post a weaker set of half-year results on Thursday as sales are hit by tougher emerging markets and a shift away from vodka among US drinkers.
The London-based company is set to post earnings down 11.8% to £1.8bn compared to a year ago, with broker Numis noting a growing trend among Americans to switch to local whiskeys or bourbons where the drinks firm does not have a strong presence.
The US market, which accounts for 45% of the firm’s profits, is expected to turn in a flat first half as it suffers from an uneven recovery that has seen weaker demand from middle income consumers.
The firm’s flagship whisky brand Johnnie Walker is expected to be down compared to a year ago, partly due to the launch of extensions such as its premium Johnnie Walker Platinum last year.
Diageo’s sales fell 7.4% in the Asia Pacific in the first quarter, led by a slowdown in sales in China influenced by an austerity drive among high-spending Chinese officials.
In Europe sales slipped 1.4% over the same period driven by weak consumer confidence, and falling sales in Russia and Eastern Europe as a result of the Ukraine crisis.
At the firm’s full-year results in July, UK sales were up 2%, driven by Baileys, Captain Morgan and Ciroc vodka and offset by a 3% fall in Smirnoff sales.