Tesco prepares to update investors

Tesco prepares to update investors

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Tesco is due to update investors next week

Tesco is due to update investors next week.

With the retailer’s third quarter figures expected to show a similar trend to the previous quarter on Tuesday, it is likely that attention will focus on the impact of snow and ice on its trading operations over recent days.

The Christmas shopping season is in full swing and a prolonged period of disruption to supplies and customer footfall is the last thing the sector needs during an already challenging trading period.

There have been reports of some grocers’ lorries struggling to reach stores through the snow, but a Tesco spokesman said all its stores and distribution centres were open and there were “no concerns over supplies”.

The retailer said it has benefited from a 27% increase in soup sales and a 67% jump in sales of thermal leggings during the last week of November. Its first-half results revealed that UK like-for-like sales excluding fuel and VAT rose by a subdued 0.3%, but analyst Sam Hart of Charles Stanley Stockbrokers expects this figure to rise to between 0.5% and 1% in the third quarter as a result of rising food price inflation.

Southern Cross Healthcare, Britain’s biggest provider of care homes, is forecast to report a 46% drop in profits on Tuesday. The embattled company will announce pre-exceptional profits slumped to £23.5 million in the year to September, according to a consensus of analysts’ forecasts.

Profits at the Darlington-based firm are being squeezed as councils and primary care trusts, which pay for more than 70% of its customers, demand reductions in rates, while its rents keep rising.

Its share price has slumped from a peak of 600p in 2007 to just 17p, despite the efforts of chief executive Jamie Buchan, who joined in 2009 and launched a New Horizons recovery programme designed to improve standards and find efficiencies at its 754 nursing homes.

In recent months Southern Cross, which owns the Ashbourne Senior Living brand, has been in buy-out talks with private equity investors. Negotiations with Towerbrook fell through in August but Southern Cross said it was in discussions with other parties, believed to include American private equity giant Blackstone, which floated the company in 2006.

Analysts at Brewin Dolphin recommended investors sell the shares after the company revealed occupancy rates declined from 87.5% to 85.4% in the third quarter. “Ultimately given our downbeat assessment of Southern Cross’ occupancy outlook, we genuinely believe that the prospect of moving to a loss making position by 2012 and not having sufficient cashflow to meet quarterly rent obligations is realistic,” it warned in a note.

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