All four divisions of engineering group Smiths - which has a number of aerospace plants in the West Midlands - will contribute to a 16 per cent rise in annual operating profits to £407 million on Thursday.

The only blight on the results for the aerospace-to-medical devices firm has been higher one-off costs, which come from the second year of the company's restructuring programme and integration and litigation settlements. It has also been affected by the weakness in the US dollar.

Smiths is likely to report a healthy outlook for all its sectors, while the company's recent acquisitions have also been performing well.

The group has four divisions ranging from detection, medical and speciality engineering to its largest business of aerospace. It was founded in 1851 and employs around 9,000 people in the UK.

Half-year results from the Ottakar's book store chain are likely to be overshadowed on Thursday as investors eye the latest developments in the battle for control involving management and Waterstone's owner HMV.

The high street chain, which has a number of local outlets, currently has the upper hand after it persuaded the independent directors of the company to back its £96.4 million offer.

The results are likely to show continued tough trading conditions, following a 6.7 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the four weeks to July 16.

The chain has felt the force of supermarkets slashing the prices of best-sellers in an effort to eat into its market share - Harry Potter sold for £11.99 at its 136 stores compared with £4.99 at one of its supermarket rivals.

Analysts at stockbrokers Baird expect profits for the year to be little changed on a year earlier at £7.1 million.

Walkabout owner Regent Inns suffered the blow of losing out in the race for rival Urbium this summer, but analysts think the bid activity has distracted attention from an encouraging trading performance over the past year.

Like-for-like sales over the past 12 months are up by 1.8 per cent despite the boost to business last year from the Euro 2004 football tournament and the current slowdown in spending by the UK consumer.

Altium Securities analyst Greg Feehely is looking for annual profits of £11.5 million when the company reports its results tomorrow, up from £11 million last year.

He said: "Management have done an excellent job in stabilising the performance of Regent Inns. The challenge now is to drive the business forward from a relatively weak financial position. We believe that there is little expansion opportunity within the existing Regent brands, therefore acquisitions need to play a central part of any future strategy."

Meanwhile, supermarket group Tesco will set another profits record tomorrow when it weighs in with a half-year surplus estimated at around £ 939 million, against £822 million a year earlier.

The forecast 14 per cent improvement in profits will follow an expected eight per cent rise in UK like-for-like sales.