US election will dominate Tuesday news, investors eye AB Foods dividend record

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For UK investors, results from AB Food, IWG and DS Smith will provide early interest but the US presidential election will be the main event on Tuesday.

However, it’s quite possible that on election night we will know for sure whether Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has ousted Republican incumbent Donald Trump with the necessary 270 electoral votes, even though half the number of votes made in the previous election have already been cast in advance.

The first states close polls at around 1am UK time so initial results may not emerge until the small hours, or if it’s close, much later in the week.

It is one of the most volatile elections in the country’s recent history, and even though Biden has a fair lead in the polls and is leading in a number of key battleground states, it was a similar case for Hillary Clinton last time.

The Democrats are hoping for a so-called ‘Blue Wave’ in which they will secure control of the Senate, the House of Representatives as well as the Presidency.

It is particularly difficult to judge how financial markets will react this time around, said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, “given the poor quality of the presidential debates, the absence of any real discussion of policy and the likelihood that either winner will sanction substantial increases in spending and the US federal deficit”.

He said the worst-case scenario for markets would probably be a contested result, with President Trump’s combative stance on postal voting and his threat to challenge the election result bringing back memories of the 2000 election, when George W. Bush and Al Gore wrangled over a Florida recount and ultimately had to go to the Supreme Court to settle the matter.

By the time the legal decision was made, the S&P 500 had lost 12% of its value.

AB Foods finals come after unwanted Covid appetizer 

Associated British Foods PLC’s (LON:ABF) will release its full-year results a day after releasing an update on the expected impact of new lockdowns in the UK and other countries.

The conglomerate said it expects to burn through £375mln of cash from the temporary closures of its Primark stores in November, with the fast-fashion chain’s sites currently shuttered in the Republic of Ireland, France, Belgium, Wales, Catalonia and Slovenia, and with the UK soon to mean that 57% of its store space will be temporarily closed.

The FTSE 100 giant’s previous upbeat update in September said that Primark profits for the year to end-September would come in at the top of the forecast range of £300-350mln while noting strong trading in its Grocery, Sugar and Ingredients arms.

The market will look for more guidance for the group’s new financial year across the different divisions, as well as for earnings per share (EPS), having previously said adjusted EPS will be “significantly below” the year to September 2019 figure, due to a drop in Primark’s profits amid lockdowns and a fall in consumer confidence.

In terms of dividend, AB Foods decided not to make an interim payment although analysts have pencilled in a 12.7p-a-share final distribution for the year and then a 43.1p-a-share payment for the whole of fiscal 2021

If the family owned group cuts its payout it would snap a streak of annual dividend growth that stretches back 20 years.

IWG challenges likely to continue

IWG PLC (LON:IWG), the serviced office group formerly known as Regus, had been one of the FTSE 250’s stars of 2019 as it pivoted to a new asset-light model, but has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

In August the group said it was expecting a “particularly challenging” third quarter but it sees encouraging signs for improvement into the fourth quarter – although these may have evaporated with the rising second and third waves of the pandemic in various countries.

In the first half of 2020, revenue shrank 3% to £1.3bn, while pre-tax losses widened 25% to £235mln as coronavirus disruption brought to extra charges of £155mln.

Management said they were focused on maximising cost savings on top of the £180mln already saved.

Analysts at Peel Hunt said a recovery looks “some way away”, though the statement “should add more clarity”.

Significant company news expected on Tuesday November 3:

Trading updates: DS Smith PLC (LON:SMDSL), IWG PLC (LON:IWG), Weir Group PLC (LON:WEIR)

Interims: Warehouse REIT PLC (LON:WHR)

Finals: AB Foods PLC (LON:ABF), CAP-XX Ltd (LON:CPX), Up Global Sourcing Holdings PLC (LON:UPGS)

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