UK companies prepare to post half-year figures

British Gas parent company Centrica is likely to generate further anger over its profits when it announces half-year results on Wednesday

Some of Britain’s best known companies will be in the spotlight next week when blue-chips including British Gas owner Centrica and ITV announce results.

British Gas parent company Centrica is likely to generate further anger over its profits when it announces half-year results on Wednesday.

The energy giant cashed in on the cold spell over the winter with residential gas consumption up 18% over the first four months of 2013, just after raising prices by 6% in December.

In a trading update in May, it admitted that it had made so much money from hard-pressed householders during the freeze that it was putting a lid on more tariff hikes for the time being.

Forecast pre-tax profits of �350m for the first half of this year from the company’s British Gas Residential arm would represent a 1.4% rise from £345m for the same period last year.

Gains from heavy winter gas usage are expected to be partially offset by the cost of a new obligation to deliver energy efficiency measures in customers’ homes, analysts at Deutsche Bank said.

Operating profits for the whole group, which includes activities in generation and energy storage are forecast to be up 7% to �1.55bn.

Broadcaster ITV will justify big spending on original TV content on Tuesday as growing earnings from its studios business offsets tough advertising markets.

The group has been snapping up production companies behind programmes such as 24 Hours in A&E and the Graham Norton Show to build an arsenal of original content it can sell around the globe.

Deals such as these have helped revive its studios business, fuelling the group’s progress despite sluggish advertising markets.

ITV warned in May the outlook for TV advertising remains tough this year in the absence of major events such as last year’s Euro 2012 football tournament and the Olympics.

Studios revenues are expected to grow by at least 10% for the full year, despite falling 5% in the first quarter.

Credit Suisse sees ITV growing first-half adjusted profits to £264m from £228m a year earlier. But group revenues are forecast to fall 1% to £1.11 bn. Credit Suisse added that there is “growing evidence that the UK economy is starting to expand modestly, which should flow through into a stronger TV advertising market in the second half”.

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey will highlight the impact of Government measures on the housing market when it posts half-year figures.

Profit margins at Britain’s second-biggest housebuilder by volume were boosted above 13% in the first six months by the Help to Buy scheme, which aims to get more people onto the housing ladder.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank expect full-year pre-tax profits to surge to £290m from £185m in 2012, helped by the use of land bought cheaply during the downturn and Help to Buy.

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