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3 FTSE 100 Shares For The Week Ahead: Legal & General Group Plc, Rio Tinto plc And Aviva plc

We’re almost collapsing under the weight of interim results from FTSE 100 companies these days, with the middle of July marking the start of the season. And we’re certainly not done yet as we move into a new month, with another helping to come next week when the insurance sector starts to make its presence known. Here are three sets of first-half results coming our way:

Legal & General, Tuesday 6 August

The key day for Legal & General (LSE: LGEN) comes on Tuesday, with analysts forecasting 12% growth in earnings per share (EPS) for the second year running — and if May’s first-quarter update is anything to go by, they might not be far out.

Total assets under management were up 9% to £441bn, with gross inflows soaring 81% to £13.6bn. Sales of just about all products were up, in fact, with chief executive Nigel Wilson enthusing “Our UK and US businesses have exceeded expectations, delivering another record set of trading figures. Strong flows and positive markets have driven LGIM’s AUM to £441bn; after our intended acquisition of Cofunds, Savings AUA will exceed £100bn; Annuities is now £33bn and Protection premiums in Q1 were almost £500m – all records“.

How have investors responded? Well, the share price is up 50% over the past 12 months to 194p today. But even after that, full-year forecasts put the shares on a modest P/E of 12.4 with a dividend yield of 4.5% expected — though due to risk, insurance shares do often tend to be rated lower than the general FTSE average.

Aviva, Thursday 8 August

Aviva (LSE: AV) (NYSE: AV.US), a member of the Fool’s Beginners’ Portfolio, will follow its sector mate with first-half figures on Thursday. In this case we’ve seen a 30% share price rise over the past 12 months to 374p — the shares dived in March when the company famously slashed its final dividend by 44%, but they’ve recovered since.

In its first quarter, Aviva saw operating capital generation stable at £0.5bn, with operating expenses down 10% to £769m, new business up 18% to £181m, and net asset value up 9% to 302p per share. All that bodes well for the forecast return to rising profits this year after three years of falls — in fact, the firm reported a statutory loss per share of 15.2p for the year to December 2012.

The dividend is the big thing, and that should be pretty safe now. At the time of the full-year cut, the company told us “We would expect the 2013 interim dividend to rebase in line with the percentage reduction in the 2012 final dividend“, so we should be expecting something around 5.6p per share. Current forecasts suggest 15.5p per share in total for the year, for a yield of 4.2%.

Rio Tinto, Thursday 8 August

It’s not just insurers exposing themselves next week, and we have Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO), another Beginners’ Portfolio constituent, set to reveal first-half results on Thursday too. With strong production figures published for the second-quarter, including iron ore production up 8% on the previous quarter, we should be seeing something positive.

For the full year, the latest forecasts suggest that 2012’s fall in EPS should be arrested and, in fact, turned into a modest 1% rise — that’s in contrast to some others in the sector which are still expected to turn in lower earnings this year. The predicted full-year dividend of 119p per share would provide a yield of 4.1% — and it should be around 2.8 times covered by earnings, so it’s looking safe.

With the share price having had an overall flat 12 months (albeit with a bumpy ride along the way), the year-end P/E is looking pretty low at 9 at the moment. Are Rio Tinto shares cheap at the moment? I think so.

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.