The Week Ahead: Updates due from Barclays, Sports Direct, N Brown, Associated British Foods and Carpetright

Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins
Photo: Visual Media/PA

Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins Photo: Visual Media/PA - Credit: PA

BARCLAYS will take centre stage this week as it kicks off the first quarter update season in the banking sector and holds what promises to be another eventful annual general meeting.

The banking giant is hoping to put a dismal 2012 behind it as it begins overhauling its culture and pay following a string of damaging scandals.

But Barclays boss Antony Jenkins has his work cut out in changing the bank’s image as it continues to make headlines for overly-generous bonuses and mammoth pay deals.

Shareholder body Pirc is opposing the group’s pay plans at its annual general meeting on Thursday, which follows the first quarter update on Wednesday. The bank is also under fire from the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which believes that accounting practices used by Barclays and others in the industry allow them to over-state profits and justify big bonuses.

Mr Jenkins has already promised a roots-and-branch overhaul of the bank’s culture and ethics, with workers having to sign up to a new code of conduct. He is also shutting the bank’s controversial Structured Capital Markets tax advisory division and said on presenting annual results in February that 1,800 jobs would go in corporate and investment banking and another 1,900 across its European retail and business arm under plans to slash costs by £1.7bn.

Nearly £2.5billion of cash set aside to cover mis-selling compensation claims contributed to a plunge in pre-tax profits to £246m in 2012 from £5.9bn the previous year, but Barclays said profits rose 26% to £7.05bn on an underlying basis.

Mr Jenkins has already admitted this year’s results may “moderate” after the restructuring, which will cost it nearly £500m in the first quarter alone and £2.7bn in total over the next three years. Analysts at Credit Suisse are pencilling in a 6% drop in first quarter profits to £2.2bn, excluding restructuring charges.

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Retail tycoon Mike Ashley’s SportsWorld empire will reveal whether it maintained impressive sales growth despite the second coldest March on record when it updates on trading on Wednesday.

Sports Direct International reported a 21% jump in sales in its third quarter to January 27 but the prolonged cold snap may have dampened appetite for sportswear in the final quarter, especially compared with the early spring heatwave seen last year.

Either way, Sports Direct has already said it was “certain” to meet its earnings target for the year to April of £270m, which is the latest benchmark on a staff bonus scheme. The demise of JJB Sports last autumn has boosted trade, with half-year profits surging 25% to £125.2m and analysts expect full-year profits to rise to £213m and underlying earnings to £285m.

A tie-up with former England cricket star Freddie Flintoff and higher online sales are expected to ensure further resilient trading at catalogue chain N Brown.

The firm, which signed Flintoff as a brand ambassador for its menswear range Jacamo in 2011, enjoyed a good Christmas with like-for-like sales rising 7.9% in the 19 weeks to January 12.

A recruitment drive also helped it win more customers, with N Brown adding more than 500,000 shoppers since last March. However, the extra customers came at a cost, with marketing spend up £2m on top of its original £40m budget for advertising across TV, newspapers and online.

A consensus of analysts expect N Brown to post pre-tax profits of £96m for the year to the start of March on Wednesday, roughly level with £96.9m a year earlier.

Primark’s stellar growth story looks set to drive another profits leap at parent Associated British Foods when it posts half-year results on Tuesday.

An impressive winter performance from Primark saw the clothing chain’s total sales rise 23% during the six months to the start of March, with it hailing “very strong” like-for-like sales growth.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Keith Bowman expects ABF to grow pre-tax profits by more than 20% to £438m during its first half, but said investors will be keen to see how heavy snowfall hit March trading.

ABF, which also owns British Sugar as well as household brands Kingsmill, Ryvita and Twinings, is likely to show flat revenues in its groceries division despite good market share gains for Twinings Ovaltine.

The UK bread market has remained highly competitive, compounded by the worst harvest of recent years. ABF’s Allied Bakeries division, which makes Kingsmill, has recovered higher costs though price increases.

Revenues from the UK sugar division should be ahead of last year with higher sales volumes compared with the previous year’s abnormally low level.

Last month’s icy weather is expected to have cooled recent resurgent trading at Carpetright during its peak spring season for home improvements and house moves.

The flooring retailer, which reports fourth quarter figures on Tuesday, has been enjoying the benefits of a successful turnaround over the past year, with third quarter sales up 3.2% in the UK.

But Kate Calvert, retail analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, is forecasting a sharp slowdown to 1.5% in its final three months and warned a profit downgrade was a possibility after the prolonged cold snap.

However, full-year profits are still expected to recover from the previous year’s slump to £4m, with most analysts pencilling a rise to £9.5m thanks to store refits and expanded ranges.