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3 More FTSE 100 Shares for the Week Ahead: Standard Life, AstraZeneca, and Unilever

By Alan Oscroft - Apr 18, 2013 at 4:40PM

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It's quarterly update time for Standard Life, AstraZeneca, and Unilever.

LONDON -- Next week is a big week for FTSE 100 news, and we've already taken a look at three top companies due to bring us tidings. But with a good proportion of firms having years ending in December, we're firmly into first-quarter season now. Here are three companies due to report on the first three months of the year:

Standard Life (LSE: SL)
On Wednesday, we'll be getting a first-quarter update from Standard Life, whose shares have had a great time since last summer. They're up more than 65% since May to today's 335 pence -- although they have been higher, touching 387 pence in March.

Full-year results for 2012, released on 7 March, revealed a 65% jump in operating profit, with chief executive David Nish telling us: "Standard Life has undergone considerable change over the past three years. As a result we now have significant opportunities for further strong and sustainable growth."

The City, however, is forecasting a 20% fall in earnings per share this year, but a predicted dividend of around 15 pence per share should be well covered and would yield 4.5%.

AstraZeneca (AZN 0.70%) (AZN 1.00%)
It's time for a first-quarter update from AstraZeneca on Thursday, and it should be an opportunity for the pharmaceuticals giant to put some flesh on the bones of its plans to get back to growth, as revealed last month. Since the announcement on 21 March, the share price has climbed by 309 pence (10%) to today's 3,349 pence.

We should be seeing a simplification of the business with the firm focusing on its key strengths, so the next few quarters should be key. A turnaround is certainly needed, after 2012 saw a fall in profits, with a further fall currently forecast for this year -- though there is still a strong dividend yield forecast, of 5.5%.

Unilever (ULVR 0.56%) (UL 1.07%)
Thursday will also be first-quarter day for Unilever, and what a year shareholders have had! Over the past 12 months, Unilever shares have soared more than 30% to today's price of 2,754 pence, which is quite something for a £35 billion FTSE 100 company -- especially with dividend yields exceeding 3%, too.

But we'll need further good results from the maker of household products if today's valuation is to be sustained, as forecasts for the year to December 2013 put the shares on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of over 19. The FTSE average is around 14, and Unilever's dividend is pretty much in line with the average of around 3.1%.

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Stocks Mentioned

AstraZeneca PLC Stock Quote
AstraZeneca PLC
$10,568.00 (0.70%) $74.00
Unilever PLC Stock Quote
Unilever PLC
$3,536.00 (0.56%) $19.50
Unilever PLC Stock Quote
Unilever PLC
$44.46 (1.07%) $0.47
AstraZeneca PLC Stock Quote
AstraZeneca PLC
$66.87 (1.00%) $0.66

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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