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Thursday preview: Results from AB Foods, Experian, Halfords, Royal Mail and Whitbread

By Oliver Haill

Date: Wednesday 17 Jan 2018

LONDON (ShareCast) - (ShareCast News) - Associated British Foods, Experian, Halfords, Royal Mail and Whitbread are among the big names reporting on what looks a busy Thursday for corporate news.
The RICS residential housing market survey is also due overnight, with the balance of surveyors reporting that house prices have increased over the last three months expected to remain at zero for December.

Going alphabetically, Associated British Foods is the retailer at the top of many investors lists and having risen more 2,000% over the last decade to a market cap of almost 23bn the Primark owner has a fond place in the hearts of many too.

Thursday sees the conglomerate scheduled to report on its first quarter, including a key period for its Primark 'fast fashion' arm and following a statement alongside its final results that the expansion of Primark's selling space will continue in the new year, with margins expected to be in line with 2017 to help increase retail profit.

For the grocery, agriculture and ingredients arms "progress" was expected, while in sugar, "higher volumes and lower costs will only partially mitigate the effect of much lower EU prices".

UBS forecast Primark LFL of 1%, with the numbers likely to show the scars of a warmer October and some recovery in November. For the UK, the Swiss bank expects 3% growth, with market share gains continuing from stronger fashion ranges, better value and range extensions into homewares, cosmetics and seasonal.

UBS will be looking out for any update on the EBIT margin outlook from the previous guidance, with a possible small decline in H1. "Flat guidance seems to incorporate a return to normal markdown levels after an exceptionally good year last year. Any sign that markdowns have remained low in the year to date could provide some upside risk. We do not expect any radical comments on the US either way, with rollout and closure both looking unlikely for at least the next 12 months."

For Experian's third-quarter update, Morgan Stanley forecast group organic growth of 5.7%.

UBS expects organic growth to begin accelerating after 12 months at 4%, to 5% this past quarter and 6% in the next. "We believe Experian is approaching an important inflection point after 18 months of