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Ian Pollard – Can Marks #MKS remain independent?

Marks & Spencer MKS looks like it has definately claimed top position as 2018’s big time Christmas loser. In the 13 weeks to the 29th December International sales collapsed by a frightening 15% which is not surprising when you look firstly at the poor service offered by some of its overseas stores and more importantly the fact that it started a major sales effort weeks before the advent of Christmas, having been forced into an offer of 20% off everything you see. Overall, group sales were down by what must have been a very disappointing 3.9%. Steve Rowe blames well publicised market conditions and then a full menu of management failures plus the combination of reducing consumer confidence, mild weather, Black Friday, and widespread discounting by competitors, all of which he claims made November a very challenging trading period. A list of major failures like that makes Marks future as an independent company, look decidedly dodgy.

Tesco TSCO Enjoyed a strong Xmas in the UK & and Republic of Ireland with Christmas like for like sales sales up by 2.6% and outperforming the UK market  in both volume and value terms. This applied in all key categories: food, clothing and general merchandise. In the third quarter the rise was 1.9%. Booker was particularly strong with third quarter sales rising by 11% and Christmas up by 6.7%. In Central Europe claims that the quality of the business is continuing to improve are hardly born out by by the figures which show increasing falls in each quarter as the year  progressed. The first quarter showed a fall of 1%, the second 2% and the third 3%.

Asia looked a bit like a disaster area with third quarter sales down by 8% nearly equalling the first quarters 9% but Christmas fighting back strongly with a a decline of only 2.8%. Strangely enough, online like-for-like sales did not enjoy the surge in sales of  some of its competitors, with the  increase over the Christmas period being a comparatively modest 2.6% over the Christmas period. It looks like Tesco still still knows how to get its shoppers out of their armchairs and into its stores.

Halfords Group HFD The 14-week period to 4 January 2019 was one of overall decline. Every part of the business saw sales fall on a like for like basis except for Autocentres and Travel Solutions. Car maintenance led the way with a drop of 4.6%. Again management sees no fault in itself and drags out the usual suspects, as being  responsible for the disappointing performance – mild weather and weak consumer confidence. In fact these two factors have become so important as face savers for Halfords management that the Chief Executive, thinks one mention is not enough and  it is worth bringing them in for a second just in case the board and the shareholders did not get the message the first time round.

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Ian Pollard – HSBC Believes It Is Enhancing Its Reputation

HSBC Holdings HSBA saw growth in operating expenses easily outstrip the banks increase in revenue. Todays interim results reveal reveal that during the first half, revenue rose by 4% whilst operating expenses grew by 7%., or 8% on an adjusted basis. Adjusted profit before tax fell by 2%. The Group Chairman descended from on high to tell us that a good start had been made on its two main targets of enhancing not only performance but reputation as well. He does not enlighten us but I wonder who told him that, customers or senior management ?, Whoever it was has presumably not  had the experience of trying to get a broken down(for the umpteenth time) ATM to dispense cash on a Saturday afternoon, or even if it was not broken down, having the same problem because it has, yet again, run out of cash. Go back to the grass roots Mr. Chairman and find out the truth about your bank’s real reputation.

Tesco TSCO has signed its long term strategic alliance with Carrefour. It will become operational in October and last for three years. What possible good it will do even to troubled Tesco, only time will tell.

easyJet plc EZJ was hit by a triple whammy in July, with industrial action in Europe, a runway closure at Gatwick and adverse weather.. Despite that it still managed to increase passenger numbers by 4.5% but this was well down on the 6.2% increase over the year from July 2017. Load factor for this July rose by only 0.1% compared to 1.4% for the rolling 12 months.Still, unless the European Union has its evil way, it will be a few years before they are reduced to doing pleasure flights round Blackpool Tower.

Ultra Electronics ULE benefited from increased US defence spending during the half year to the 30th June but the reported results were impacted by cost overruns. Organic revenue rose by 1.3% and organic profit growth by 1.4%. Basic earnings per share were down by nearly 50% and statutory profit before tax fell by a third to 20m. The order book has been and continues to be strong and better than expected. Foreign exchange “headwinds: are blamed for a 5.8% impact  on underlying operating profit. The interim dividend remains unchanged at 14.6p per share.

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Ian Pollard – Page Group #PAGE UK impacted by Easter, Germany 28% record growth

Page Group plc PAGE delivered a record first quarter with gross profits up by 12.3% after strong global rises everywhere except for the UK where the fall of 7.1% illustrated the abysmal state of the UK economy. – sorry perhaps I should not have said that, the real excuse for the UK apparantly, was the timing of Easter which leaves one wondering how the Germans which share the same dates for Easter, came out top with a record quarter and growth of 28%.

Tesco plc TSCO announces another year of strong growth for 2017/18. Despite challenging market conditions  profit before tax leaping by 769.7% from £145m. to £1.208bn.The year also produced the 9th consecutive quarter of growth and a final dividend of 2p per share is to be paid, making a total for the year of 3p. Group sales rose by 0.6% or 2.3% at actual exchange rates.

BCA Marketplace plc BCA updates that it has traded ahead of market expectations and the positive outlook referred to in Novembers interim results has continued. The outcome is that profits for the full year have grown strongly and net debt is lower than market expectations.

McCarthy & Stone plc MCS claims that underlying trading in the half year to the end of February remained resilient despite a substantial 15% rise in the average selling price from £260,000 to £298,000. Legal completions showed a fall of 12% and not surprisingly profit before tax did not look very healthy with a slump of 52% and earnings per share more than halving from 3.3p to 1.5p per share. Net debt more than doubled from £30.4m to £75.9m. The interim dividend is tweaked upwards but the best that could be afforded in the circumstances was a rise from 1.8p per share to 1.9p.

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Ian Pollard – Tesco Forecasts £1.57 Billion Profits and 2p Final Dividend

Tesco TSCO is to publish its prospectus and other documents later today for its proposed merger with Booker. These will include a profit forecast of £1,57 billion for the year to 24th February 2018 and an intention to pay a final dividend of 2p per share.

Electrocomponents ECM  The quarter to the 31st January produced a strong underlying revenue performance with growth of 14%. Each of the 5 regions produced double digit underlying growth. The Performance Improvement Plan stage 1 has now been completed and the company is  excited by the opportunity for further growth and improvement.

Wizz Air Holdings WIZZ Passenger numbers grew by 24.4% in January, slightly less than seat capacity which was up by 24.8%. Load factor fell by 0.3%

 

Murgitroyd Group MUR is to increase its interim dividend by 30% to 6.5p per share for the half year to the 30th November. Profit before tax rose by 14% and basic earnings per share by 14%. The board is confident of further long term growth.

Croma Security Solutions CSSG trading for the 6 months to the 31st December has been exceptionally strong and EBITDA is expected to have grown from  £0.44m to £1.1m. Record profits are expected for the full year.

Eckoh ECK has secured six sizeable new orders since the interim results were announced on the 17th November. These were in a variety of sectors including, healthcare,  insurance and mobile telecoms where the client was one of the UK’s largest mobile telephone operators. Benefits are expected to start accruing  in the second half.

Smart Metering Systems SMS saw total annualised revenue rise by 38% in the year to the 31st December. In the Electricity division, meter recurring revenue nearly tripled to £11.2m. Results for the year are expected to be inline with current market expectations

 

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Zak Mir interviews Zaf Karim, CEO of Legendary Investments #LEG on Core Finance

With a potential NZ Banking License and a Nasdaq Listing for its VirtualStock asset, 2018 has started with great expectations for Legendary Investments #LEG, where private investors can play the private equity game. CEO Zaf Karim stepped into ZaksTradersCafe to explain more.
Legendary Investments #LEG announced last week that their invested company and jewel in the crown, Virtualstock have signed a partnership deal with Wincanton Plc #WIN. This seals the fate of Virtualstock, who already have supply Tesco #TSCO and the NHS with their SAAS procurement software, as the accepted partner for some of UK’s most successful businesses. Wincanton also work with Screwfix, Halfords #HFD and the Ministry of Defence, so watch this company explode onto the world stage: a listing on NASDAQ is the next step.
Virtualstock is still a private company, but can be bought by purchasing shares in Legendary Investments, who hold 7% of Virtualstock.

Ian Pollard – Marks Trounced By Tesco

Marks & Spencer MKS Brave words from Steve Rowe as he tries to explain away Marks continued decline both at home and abroad. Group third quarter sales for  the thirteen weeks  to the 30th December fell by 0.1%. In the UK total sales fell by 1.4% with clothing and home down by 2.8% which should not surprise anyone when clothing prices are high and uncompetitive.The decline at home however falls into insignificance compared to the mayhem abroad where international sales collapsed by 9.8%. Rowe describes it as a mixed quarter which  must go down as the understatement of the year so far. The international debacle is explained away as being “planned” leaving Marks open to the question as to why they did not plan for international expansion, instead. Nevertheless in the year ahead   Marks claims it will be getting its business back on track as its accelerated transformation continues. Brave words indeed, albeit  based on this Christmas, somewhat empty sounding.What Marks can not explain away is that it is operating in the same market with the same market conditions as Tesco which has had a highly successful Xmas and third quarter.

Tesco plc TSCO  A third quarter rise of 2.3% in like for like sales only exposed the glaring weaknesses in Marks performance. Tesco enjoyed a record Xmas and outperformed the market in sales and volume. UK food sales in the 4 weeks to Christmas Day rose by 3.4% but this was somewhat offset by weakness in general merchandise.. The only other weakness was in Asia where like for like sales fell by 11.1% over 19 weeks as Tesco withdrew from bulk selling in Thailand. As for the coming year the merger with Booker is now expected to complete in March.

Barratt Developments BDEV Gone are the days of heady growth for the UKs largest housebuilder whose forward sales as at the end of December showed a rise of only 2% and whose growth for 2018 is expected to be only modest. Nonetheless the first half performance is described as being strong, supported naturally by the government and by good mortgage availability. Total completions in the 6 months to the 31st December rose but only by 144 units on top of the previous total of 7.180 units. Where Barratts really won was on its average selling price which it managed to increase by 6.5% more than double that of its competitors who have reported recently. and way above the increase in average building costs during the period.

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Ian Pollard – Pop Down To The Amazon, Will You, Pet

Tesco plc TSCO The competition and Markets Authority has given its blessing, or unconditional final clearance, as they say in the city, to Tesco’s proposed merger with Booker Group. Completion of the merger is expected in March after shareholders meetings in February.

I can’t help thinking that Tesco will rue the day when management decided that this was the way forward and perhaps the only solution it could find to try and save the day. It indicated that management had continued to lose touch and failed to realise that retail as we had known it over the last 150 years or so, since Mr. Sainsbury opened his first shop and Mr Marks opened his stall on Leeds Kirkgate market, is dying a slow death. The first nail in the coffin came from the planners who decided it was better to force the major retailers out of city centres and replace them with charity shops. It also meant that the big developers could then legally bribe local authorities by building new by passes for them free of charge so that shoppers who had gone into city centres by bus, could shop in soulless new shopping complexes and malls which nobody wanted in the first place.  and which they could only get to by car,. thus enabling local politicians and other jobsworthies to grab themselves a headline or two by screaming how bus services had been decimated and people were going out of town to shop.

The whole shopping experience became unpleasant and customers retaliated by staying at home, with the car in the garage, the central heating on and most important of all, the computer on. The second nail in the coffin had arrived and it was called Amazon. The days is not now far off when it will be, “pop down to the Amazon pet and get us a pack of Tetleys and a bag of nuts, will yer.” If Walmart is wilting under the onslaught of shopping by computer, what chance is there for Tesco whose response to the internet age was to announce it was stopping delivery to Greece of clothing and other items bought on line.

Drax Group DRX has suffered an unplanned outage on its rail unloading facility at Drax Power Station. Whilst it is anybody’s guess I think that is supposed to mean that the trains have broken down or stopped running or that the unloading facility itself has crashed. Any road up as they say in the nether regions of Selby, we are not educated enough to be told exactly what an outage is but it is going to last until some time in January and it is going to cost a pretty packet, about a 10m reduction in EBITDA for 2017.

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WPP Now Failing To Meet Budget and Forecasts

WPP plc WPP has not enjoyed a good first half to the year and what on the face of it appear to be very healthy growth in profits ,are distorted by comparison with the first half of 2016 when there were exceptional net costs of 122m. On a constant currency and like for like basis 2017 has really been a year of slow decline save for the UK which was the strongest performing region in the second quarter with like for like revenue up by 5.8%

Revenue is perhaps the best guideline as to the true state of affairs for the half year and on a constant currency basis it rose by a meagre 1.9% which turned into a fall of 0.3% on a like for like basis. Like for like net sales also fell by 0.5%. Reported billings fared even worse with a fall of 4.7% in constant currency. Reported EBITDA showed a constant currency rise of 1.7%. Helped by the distortions of last years exceptional costs profit before tax showed a rise of 83.3% and reported diluted earnings per share were up by 95.1%

Things have got worse as the company enters its second half year with current trading in July  behind both budget and forecast as like for like revenue and net sales fell by 4.1% and 2.6% respectively.

NMC Health plc NMC produced a strong performance in the six months to the 30th June with good progress made cross all parts of the group. Reported revenue rose by 34%, EBITDA by 47.3% and adjusted net profit by 56%

Tesco plc TSCO opens its compensation scheme today for investors who were net buyers of shares or certain types of Tesco bonds between 29th August 2014 and 19th September 2014. The compensation amounts to 24.5p per share plus interest at 4% for retail investors.

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The High Street – Still Alive And Kicking But Online Threat Grows

Marks & Spencer MKS gives a very brief summary of its trading for the 13 weeks to the 31st December. Group sales rose by 5.9% on a reported basis. Food did well with a rise of 5.6% or 0.6% on a like for like basis and  continuing to increase its market share. Sales in clothing and home did even better on a like for like basis with a rise of 2.3%. Total like for like sales were up by 1.3%. The high street may still be a battleground but at least Marks emerged unscathed from the most important trading period of the year.

Tesco TSCO claims its first increase in market share since 2011 following strong and sustained progress in its 3rd quarter, covering the 13 weeks to the 26th November, which also produced the 8th consecutive quarter of volume growth. Over the 6 weeks to the 7th January the rise in like for like sales continued with growth of 0.3%, the UK being particularly strong with a rise of 0.7%. Clothes and toys produced over all sales rises of 4.3% and 8.5% respectively. The one weak point was International which produced like for like falls in both the 3rd quarter and  over the 6 week Xmas period.

Mothercare MTC showed a return to growth in the UK for the 13 weeks to 7th January with a 1% rise in like for like sales but International sales still has problems with a total fall of 6% in constant currency terms, the day being saved by currency fluctuations which turned that into a rise of 13% in real terms. Online growth was particularly strong with a rise of 5.5% taking online’s percentage of total sales up to some 40% of total sales. Perhaps this is an indication of the future of retailing.

Debenhams DEB Is pleased with what it claims to be a resilient performance, with like for like sales over the 18 weeks to 7th January up by 3.5% or 0.5% on a constant currency basis. Online sales were strong with a rise of 13,9% taking online’s growth over 2 years to more than 25%. The 7 week Xmas period to 7th January produced like for like growth of 5% or 1.7% on a constant currency basis.

ASOS ASC provides more evidence of the growing power of online retailing with growth which dwarfs that of the high street retailers. Total group revenue rose by 30% on a constant currency basis for the 4 months to the end of December. The UK looked positively pedestrian against this with a rise of only 18%, which ASOS nonetheless claims is a strong performance in a more promotional market.

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Brand CEO Alan Green discusses Feedback (FDBK) developments & Tesco (TSCO) on VOX Markets podcast

Brand CEO Alan Green discusses Feedback (FDBK) developments & Tesco (TSCO) with Justin Waite on the VOX Markets podcast. The interview is 37 minutes, 45 seconds in.

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