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Glaxo link to probe

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline publishes second quarter results on Wednesday as a tangled web of allegations linked to a bribery probe by Chinese authorities continues to hang over the UK-based company.

It comes shortly after a British investigator and his American wife who were hired by the company learned they were to face trial in the country charged with illegally obtaining and selling private information.

The arrest of Peter Humphrey and Yingzeng Yu last year coincided with a Chinese probe into allegations that Glaxo staff had funnelled hundreds of millions of pounds through travel agencies to bribe doctors and health officials.

The couple's firm ChinaWhys had been asked to look into the origin of a sex tape involving Glaxo's China manager Mark Reilly, who has himself been accused by Chinese authorities in relation to the bribery case.

Glaxo has said it asked the investigators to look into a "serious breach of privacy and security" relating to Mr Reilly but that the firm was not hired "to investigate the substance of allegations of misconduct" made by a whistleblower.

In May, the pharmaceuticals firm disclosed that its commercial practices had come under "formal criminal investigation" by Britain's Serious Fraud Office.

Sheridan Adams, investment research manager at The Share Centre, said: "Although Chinese revenues only account for less than 5% of the global total, negative press coverage will not be welcomed and investors may want to hear from management on the matter."

Glaxo's second quarter update is the first since the takeover frenzy over US rival Pfizer's ultimately unsuccessful bid to swallow up Britain's AstraZeneca for £69 million amid a public outcry.

The merger spotlight in the sector has since fallen on Hampshire-based Shire and its American suitor AbbVie.

Glaxo has kept out of any speculation around such deals, after unveiling a complex three-part transaction with Novartis in May.

It will see the two firms create a £6.5 billion consumer healthcare powerhouse from its Aquafresh and Beechams together with antiseptic range Savlon and cough and cold brand Tixylix from Novartis.

The deal also saw Glaxo sell its oncology portfolio from Novartis and buy the Swiss firm's vaccines business.

BSkyB is expected to post a drop in annual profits as the firm invests in smart TV services and pays for Premier League football rights.

The City expects the broadcaster to report a 7.6% fall in operating profits to £1.2 billion, after paying out up to £70 million to upgrade its TV services and £220 million for top flight English football rights, which is part of a £2.3 billion three-year deal it agreed with the Premier League in 2012.

Sky faces increased competition from BT, which launched its own sport channels last August and has bought strong packages of Premier Leauge and Champions League rights.

Sky also faces movie and drama competition from internet streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Investors will want to hear more about the broadcaster's plan to expand its pay-TV empire in Europe through the acquisition of Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia.

It would result in a £22 billion pay-TV giant with the power to sell services and compete for rights across three key European territories. The move would also consolidate media owner Rupert Murdoch's interests as 21st Century Fox currently owns 55% of Sky Deutschland and all of Sky Italia.

BSkyB said in May the merger would create "a world-class multinational pay TV group", with over 17 million subscribers. It is thought that a potential transaction could value the two businesses in the region of £8 billion.

But at its core business the City is looking for a fourth quarter of "solid progress" with around 635,000 product additions, which is slightly below the performance in the previous quarter.

Broker Numis added that Sky is executing its strategy of investment in new services well and expects the group to benefit from a pick up the economy and increased housing transactions over the coming year.

The maker of some of Britain's best known food brands is expected to report weaker trading on Tuesday as it feels the impact of the supermarket price wars.

Analysts at Jefferies estimate the business, which makes Mr Kipling cakes, Ambrosia desserts, Bisto gravy and Lloyd Grossman sauces, will post a trading profit down 3.5% to £45 million in the first six months of the year.

The St Albans-based firm had already primed the market to expect bad news after releasing a surprise trading update last month saying it expected sales of its key brands in the second quarter of the financial year to fall "due to subdued grocery markets".

Pressure on prices has led to the lowest growth in the supermarket sector in 11 years, with the big four supermarkets - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons - continuing to be squeezed by discount retailers Aldi and Lidl.

The company added that it no longer expected its key brands to grow by 2-3% during the year, but it still maintained its full-year trading profit range of £139 million to £144 million.

Analysts at Numis said the food group suffered poor trading in the first three months of its financial year due to a late Easter, a mild winter and the subdued consumer background. It added Premier's second quarter has shown little signs of improvement.

Numis said the concern for Premier is if poor trading continues into the second half of the year, when the firm makes the majority of its profit.

"The current trading environment does not appear to be cutting the group any slack," concluded Numis.

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