Coronavirus vaccines and oil dividends in focus on Thursday as AstraZeneca and Shell update investors

Attention will be on AstraZeneca Plc (LON:AZN) as it releases interim results though really the focus will be on the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine programme (as it is developing one of the leading candidates).

Last week, Astra and the University of Oxford reported encouraging data from their clinical trial of a potential coronavirus vaccine, but only the costs of this venture are likely to figure in the first six months of the year.

Standout elements of the Anglo-Swedish drugs giants first quarter back in April were its oncology portfolio, with emerging products such as Tagrisso, Imfinzi and Lynparza registering year on year growth of 56%, 57% and 67% respectively.

After group revenue rose 16%, core earnings per share jumped 27% and reported EPS climbed 17%, AZs guidance was maintained for full-year revenue growth of “a high single-digit to a low double-digit percentage”, with core EPS advancing by a “mid- to high-teens percentage”.

Shell shocks over?

There should be no confusing what the key focus of Royal Dutch Shell Plcs (LON:RDSB) upcoming update – its all about the dividend.

Shell shocked the market in April as it cut its dividend for the first time in eight decades, leading it to lose its crown as the most highly valued company in London. The only question in town that matters then is what will the oil supermajor payout this time?

“Investors will be looking to see whether the $0.16 payment offered in Q1 is the new normal or not,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Analysts on average forecast US$0.66 a share for the full year in 2020, which implies a small increase in the second half.

If Shell does stick to $0.16 a quarter it will still be the third single-biggest dividend payer in the FTSE 100 at just over £4bn, Mould noted, trailing only BP and British American Tobacco.

Beyond dividends, investors will also have an eye out for further writedowns and importantly a new gauge on Shells profitability in the current oil price environment.

Thursday 30 July

Trading announcements: 3i Group plc (LON:III), Compass Group PLC (LON:CPG), Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB), Evraz PLC (LON:EVR), KAZ Minerals PLC (LON:KAZ), Volution Group PLC (LON:FAN)

Finals: Diageo PLC (LON:DGE)

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