Figures for M&S may reveal future strategy

Marks & Spencer and Vodafone will be among those reporting figures this week during another significant few days for corporate results.

Marks & Spencer posts its half-year results tomorrow, but the City will be focused on new chief executive Marc Bolland's plans for the business.

Mr Bolland arrived in May as a chief executive with a formidable reputation, having turned Bradford-based supermarket Wm Morrison into a stronger competitor to Tesco, J Sainsbury and Asda with growth that bettered its bigger rivals.

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As part of his strategic review, it is thought that Mr Bolland has considered scaling back a branded food trial that currently covers some 400 lines.

Two years ago, M&S broke with 85 years of tradition by selling some of Britain's best-loved brands – such as Heinz Baked Beans, PG Tips and Kellogg's Cornflakes – in its stores alongside its own-label foods.

It has also been reported that Mr Bolland plans to take the chain back to continental Europe and buy up stores it sold there nearly a decade ago.

However, Matrix analyst Tom Gadsby said a rapid expansion in Europe was unlikely.

"Marc Bolland has repeatedly talked of 'evolution not revolution', and such sentiment would be at odds with a big European acquisition," he said.

Mr Gadsby, who is looking for Mr Bolland to focus on the development of the M&S website, added there would be no great surprises in the results after a thorough trading update in October.

The chain posted better-than-expected like-for-like sales of 5.3 per cent in the 13 weeks to October 2.

Consensus figures for half-year pre-tax profits are about 347m, against 298.3m a year earlier.

Jean Roche, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said she would be interested to see the level of staff bonus being provided for, given the better than expected growth.

She said: "We are positive on M&S's strong brand, relative exposure to a more wealthy customer, its multi-channel model, its growing international business and the recovery and repositioning of the food business."

But she added that until it gained a further insight into Mr Bolland's plans, the broker would not alter forecasts for full-year earnings.