The slightly shortened coming trading week will bring updates from a number of major firms, including final results from telecoms giant BT, broadcaster ITV and Holiday Inn owner Intercontinental Hotels.
Meanwhile, on the macro front, investors will be eyeing the Bank of Englands scheduled interest rate decision and meeting on Thursday alongside another batch of US weekly jobless claims and – on Friday when London markets will be closed for the VE Day bank holiday – the monthly US job data
ITV wary of ad revenue slump
A trading update on Wednesday from ITV PLC (LON:ITV) should provide investors with some more clarity on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting advertising spend as well as any knock-on effects on the broadcaster.
The company has previously said that it anticipated ad revenues to decline by around 10% in April, with expectations likely to be for more cost-cutting measures following the cancellation of the final dividend.
ITV investors are already licking their wounds after a difficult few months for the share price, which is currently trading at around an eight-year low.
Will BTs dividend stay intact?
The former state monopoly, which has cut its payout twice before in its stock market-listed history in 2001-02 and 2009, has kept its lips zipped so far amid the tumult of dividend dumping by other blue-chip firms in recent weeks.
“BTs uncovered dividend remains the elephant in the room – given rising competitive pressures, rising capex, likely elevated pension contributions from 2021, material COVID-19 and macro uncertainty,” Barclays analysts said in a recent note.
The coronavirus crisis provided a good excuse for a board that has been unwilling to make the move, despite chairman Jan du Plessis saying last year that the company will consider reducing the dividend in “a year or two”.
Doubts had been lingering about the sustainability of the dividend even before the coronavirus crisis, due to the cost of BT's investment in its broadband and 5G roll-out.
The current implied dividend yield of 13% looks “too good to be true”, said Russ Mould, especially after the recent cut from Royal Duch Shell PLC (LON:RDSA), which was the oil major's first payout reduction since the second world war.
With BT shares down 40% so far this year, taking its five-year decline to around 75%, Mould said it “suggests the market is worried about how BT can compete on so many fronts – fixed and wireless telecoms, broadband, TV and sports broadcasts – when it has a lot of debt, a big pension deficit and is hemmed in by the regulator Ofcom on one side, a host of competitors on another and value-sensitive customers on another, all of whom are capable of switching from one service provider to another”.
As well as the dividend, Mould says there are three other numbers to watch out for from the guidance provided by new boss Philip Jansen last summer: a 2% drop in adjusted revenues, underlying profits (EBITDA) of £7.9-8bn and a drop in normalised free cash flow to around £1.9bn from £3bn two years ago.
Trainline updates as demand hits the buffers
Investors in Trainline PLC (LON:TRN) will be bracing for the groups full-yearl results on Thursday after the rail and bus ticket seller slashed costs last month as the UKs coronavirus lockdown measures caused a collapse in demand.
With business hitting the buffers, shareholders are likely to keep an eye out for any additional cost-cutting measures as well as any updates on the companys liquidity position and the prospect of a fundraising.
Trainline was given some breathing room in this regard on April 29 after it agreed with its lenders to waive the covenant on a £350mln revolving credit facility until next August.
Coca-Cola HBC hopes to retain some fizz
Soft drink bottler Coca-Cola HBC AG (LON:CCH) will deliver a trading update on Thursday, a chance for investors to gauge the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures on the group's sales, particularly in central and southern Europe.
While the FTSE 100-listed firm achieved good sales in the final quarter of last year, this is likely to have taken a hit as quarantine measures and closures hit consumer demand for fizzy drinks.
However, with early signs that restrictions may be easing in some of its markets, investors are likely to keep a close eye on whether the company updates its full-year guidance.
Could National Express leave the parking lot?
National Express Group PLC (LON:NEX) releases a trading update on Thursday, just a couple of weeks after updating investors on its balance sheet as the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis inevitably impacts passenger numbers using the transport firm's services.
The bus and coach operator flagged over £1bn of undrawn available funds as well as £200mln in the bank, including £600mln from the government's Covid Financing Facility.
Investors may want to hear more on the operating timetable, and whether there are plans to ramp up services again.
Checking in at Intercontinental Hotels
The FTSE 100-listed company said recently that its key revenues per available room (RevPAR) metric plunged by 55% in March. However, with most hotels in China now reopened and only one in 10 closed in the US, investors could hope for an improvement.
But hotels that are open are only around 20-25% full.
The market has been forgiving to the hospitality giant, with IHG shares rising nearly 50% since a dip to 2,161p dip in March, though they are still far away from the 5,120p hit in February.
Superdry to update on closures damage
The hoodie designer was quick in dropping guidance just as the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding in Europe, warning that online sales will not be enough to offset the losses made from shuttered walk-in stores.
The majority of the group's European estate, accounting for 40% of weekly sales, were already closed as of March 18.
At the time the UK and US sites, which represent 50% and 10% respectively of weekly sales, were still open but footfall had slumped by 25% week on week.
Investors are looking to hear on the group's trading performance and balance sheet developments – at the last update, the faux-Japanese clothier had £47mln in cash, a £70mln revolving credit facility and an overdraft facility of £20mln.
BoE meeting of interest
In a busy week for economic data, the big UK event is probably still the Bank of England meeting, even though its tools may be limited with the UK base rate already cut to 0.1%.
While some central banks have ruled out further rate cuts, ahead of its meeting next week the BoE has not referred to any limits on reducing rates further, meaning zero could be on the cards, as well as further quantitative easing (QE).
In March, new BoE governor Andrew Bailey unveiled a range of measures designed to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown imposed to limits its potential reach, including term funding to banks and building societies to encourage lending and a £200bn increase in QE, plus the creation of the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) for larger businesses and the Covid Business Interruption Loan scheme (CBILS) for smaller firms to get access to loans directly.
“The question that remains here is whether firms wish to take on additional liabilities – that will have to be paid back – when they have little or no visibility as to their income and may already have more borrowings than they would like,” according to Russ Mould at AJ Bell.
He said it will be interesting to see what the BoEs assessment is of its policy package, including how well banks are carrying out its wishes and whether any of the elements of it need to be dialled up or dialled down.
RBC Capital Markets predicted another £200bn of QE is on the way but might be held off until the next meeting on June 18.
Macro data matters
As regards economic data, it almost doesnt matter, argues Marshall Gittler at BDSwiss as “economic indicators are no longer likely to be a major source of market movement as central banks reaction functions have effectively been turned off”.
As an example, he said it would be impossible normally to imagine that in a month when tens of millions of American people lost their jobs, personal spending fell the most on record, and various business sentiment indices fell to record lows, that the stock market would have its best month since 1987 and almost since 1974.
“The economic statistics arent moving markets; virus news is. Thats likely to continue for some time," he said.
The big number should be Fridays US non-farm payrolls, with the April report likely to go down in the record books according to RBC Capital.
“This is rearview mirror information,” RBC's economists said. “What will be more critical is tracking how the re-opening and the access to PPP lending (small business grants) impact the speed at which the u-rate can come down. We suspect that we will see a quite dramatic decline after the April print.”
Significant announcements expected for the week ending May 8:
Monday May 4:
Tuesday May 5:
Trading updates: Getbusy PLC (LON:GETB)
Economic data: UK services PMI, US services PMI, US trade balance
Wednesday 6 May: