This week may see the future of Safeway supermarkets clarified, as hopes rise that the Government will consider making an early announcement, possibly by Thursday. It had been thought that the decision would not be made public until the week beginning October 6, but those close to the potential bidders have been told to expect news towards the end of this week.

The report is believed to recommend the Wm Morrison bid to proceed, subject to the disposal of up to fifty stores. Asda is said to be very interested in acquiring those stores. There are other groups involved, however, amid talk of frantic horse trading of the more desirable sites being made available.

There are two possible reasons for the earlier than expected announcement. The first is that the decision may be a simple declaration that Wm Morrison's bid is acceptable, and the remedies offered by the company are simple to achieve. The rally in the share price recently could indicate this to be the case.

Secondly, the Labour Party Conference starts on October 28. With three takeover reports to announce, it is usual practice for the Government to stagger announcements. To allow comments from all concerned, and appropriate responses from the Department for Trade and Industry following the decision, it is thought likely that this will happen well before the party conference.

Concern over the future of steelmaking on Teesside has heightened recently, amid further funding problems for the parent company. Philippe Varin, Corus's chief executive, is expected to announce changes this week, as the company unveils half-year results tomorrow. The share price has fallen back recently over worries that it might announce a rights issue to raise about £250m to pay for redundancies and investments at its UK sites. This may be easier said than done, and the company may have to look to the banks for further loans, helped by possible disposals. Teesside already operates as a stand-alone business, and the for sale signs may go up along with the company's small US activities.

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee last week made public the minutes to the meeting held in the first week of September. Again, the committee members voted unanimously to leave interest rates on hold at 3.5 per cent. Although noises were made regarding the level of household debt, prompting expectations of higher interest rates, an increase is not deemed likely this year. The US Federal Reserve has indicated that US interest rates are set to stay low for some time, and European central bank rates are expected to be further reduced at some stage.We can therefore expect low UK rates for some time too.

For those wanting to see evidence of a recovery, Thursday sees the announcement of interim results from Maiden Group. The company owns most of Britain's advertising billboards. In July, Maiden hinted it would show an improvement on last year.

The difference between speculation and reality is often just time, particularly when that speculation is accurate. As Aristotle Onasis once said, "the secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows".

For investment advice contact Anthony Platts on 01642 608855.

Published: 23/09/2003