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Sports Direct Intl plc SPD is continuing to push its pre-conditional possible offer for Debenhams at 5p in cash per ordinary share announced on 25 March 2019 but it is now trying to add a sweetener with a proposal to Debenhams under which it would underwrite a £150 million pre-emptive equity issuance to existing Debenhams shareholders. There are of course strings attached, one of which is the appointment of Mike Ashley as Debenhams’ CEO. Whether that can be regarded as adding to the sweetness of the package, remains to be seen. What may derogate from the sweetness but Sports Direct regards as being a technical matter only, is its clarification that were it to complete, the Equity Issuance would be an alternative transaction to the Possible Offer and vice versa.
Unite Group plc UTG The increase in valuations over the quarter to the 31st March has been driven primarily by rental growth across the portfolio which is in line with the first quarter in 2018 and supports the company’s outlook of 3.0-3.5% for the whole of 2019. Reservations are strong for the 2019/20 academic year with 79% of bed spaces already let (compared with 77% at this time last year)
Keywords Studios plc KWS produced a strong performance in the year to the 31st December with further expansion of new and existing services. Revenue rose by 66% and on an adjusted basis profits before tax was up by 65% and basic earnings per share by 53%. The final dividend is to be increased from 0.98 p per share to 1.08p. bringing the total increase for the year to 10%. An encouraging start has been made to 2019 with significant new business gains. Strengthened market leadership and breadth and scale of services which the company now offers enables it to take advantage of the multiple growth opportunities which the company sees in a market that continues to grow in size and sophistication.
Castleton Technology plc CTP updates that it has recorded good organic growth in both revenue and profit in the year to the 31st March. The Board continues to be optimistic about the Group’s growth prospects and the market opportunity remains large. In particular new contract wins and acquisitions have made 2018 a milestone year and highlighted the company’s ability to develop new solutions.
Debenhams DEB Where shall we take the kids today, darling ? What about Debenhams for a fun social time? Daddy. daddy yes, pleeease ! There used to be only one reason to go to Debenhams and management appears to have completely forgotten what that was. It was to shop and buy things, you dunderheads. If Debenhams customers are going for and having, a fun social time they are not buying and Debenhams is not selling. No wonder UK EBITDA is down by 6% No wonder its online performance has been strong and it is trying to make progress in non clothing categories and no wonder that for the half year to the 14th March group profit before tax fell by 6.4%.
Unilever plc ULVR is raising its quarterly dividend by 12% as first quarter turnover rose by 6.1% after a positive currency impact of 2.4%. Underlying sales growth for 2017 is now expected to rise by between 3% and 5%. Market conditions remained challenging with negative volume growth in Europe and North America. India did show some recovery from the effects of removal of currency notes but Brazil was adversely impacted by its economic crisis.
MAN Group EMG The first quarter of 2017 was a strong one for Man with funds under management rising by 10%, with growth in each of its investment engines. MAN now looks forward to the” alpha” opportunities being created by the global environment – Nothing like jargon when you are stuck for words – alpha opportunities indeed !
Paragon Entertainment Ltd PEL claims to have succeeded in doing what it set out to do in 2016, with revenue up by 70% to £14.4m and gross profit up by 91% to £3.76m. Projects completed included Coronation street, Fountains Abbey and Rolling Stones. With new projects in the pipeline, the company claims it is excited about its future
Amerisur Resources AMER Platanillo – 22 well has now been tested at 613 barrels of oil per day which is materially ahead of pre test expectations of between 300 and 400 bopd. The well has been placed on commercial production.
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.
Debenhams DEB The year to the 3rd September must have been one of the most boring on record and the tone of the full year results does nothing to dispel that impression. Like for like sales sales rose 0.7%, EBITDA was down 2.2%, underlying earnings per share declined gently from 7.6p to 7.5p and the full year dividend is gently increased by 0.7%. It looks like it will be next Spring before anything really exciting happens, with the issue of an update about future plans which will continue Debenham’s exodus from clothing. Those who are not into jargon may wince at “Growth in mobile supported strong multi-channel performance” which is part of the latest craze in management speak, the sentence without a verb. At least growth there was real growth with a rise of 9.3% in online sales.
Inchcape plc INCH expects that its full year performance will be resilient after a solid third quarter which produced growth across all five of its revenue streams. On a constant currency basis group revenue rose by 4.8% and like for like revenue by 1.8%. Trading results for 2017 are expected to be impacted by currency pressures and uncertainty over the timing of the recovery which it expects in some of its markets.
Barclays Bank BARC prefers to highlight what it describes as its strong core business performance which produced a 4% rise in third quarter core profit before tax, which still left a 10% decline in Group profit before tax or an even worse 17% drop in profits after tax over nine months.. Net operating income over the first nine months fell by 10% at the same time as operating expenses rose by 6%. Basic earnings per share fell by nearly 25% to 9.6p on a continuing basis. Dividends over the nine months are down by two thirds.
C&C Group CCR has been impacted by currency movements for the 6 months to the end of August to the extent that reported revenue and operating profit declined by 24.4m Euro and 2.8m Euro respectively, which translate into percentage falls of 8.1 % and 7.9%. Earnings per share fell by 6.1% after they had been both adjusted and diluted. despite gloom there were a number of strong points with export markets up by 10%, Magners volume up by11% and Bulmers by 6%. This appears to have encouraged the Board to believe that, despite the problems, it is right and proper to maintain its progressive dividend policy and the interim dividend is raise by 5%.
Hornby HRN has been forced to go to its shareholders cap in one hand and begging bowl in the other and ask them for a measly £8,000,000 for working capital and other essential items which will, they hope, help keep it afloat. The share price has justifiably nose dived from 109p last August to yesterdays 31p and the offer price of the proposed new shares is at a 15% discount to that. Things at one of the UK’s best known brands with a globally recognised name, are so bad that in March, Barclays waived its covenant test. February’s profit warning was the last straw after years of mismanagement and an endless list of excuses, at last brought home to the company that the end was night and the company was on its knees.
Today’s results show that 2015 was yet another disastrous year with revenue to 31st March down by 4% and last years profit of £1.6m turned into an underlying loss of £5.7m or on a reported basis,even worse, with a loss of £13.5m compared to £0.2m.
Steven Cook the CEO has the grace to admit that it was a difficult and disappointing year but then trots out the same pathetic excuse which the company has relied on for years – it faced, he says, “significant challenges”. For gods sake, man, that is what management and the Board is supposed to be there for – to face and overcome challenges. If it cant do it, then they should depart.
But fear not, all will be well. After months of deliberation, the company has at last produced a turn round plan.
Debenhams DEB saw like for like sales for the 15 weeks to 11th June fall by 0.2% or 1.6% if you prefer your results on a constant currency basis. Online sales provided an exception with growth of 7% but the international division’s performance remained mixed. Volatility in the trading environment is blamed for the lack of success, as is a weaker trading environment in the second half. Presumably it will decide which is the correct one to blame when it has a bit more of the second half under its belt. The departing CEO, says that its strategy remains unchanged and apparently regards this as a good thing. We shall see in due course
Mothercare MTC refuses to admit that its full year underlying profits will be below expectations, preferring instead to claim that they will be “within range” of market expectations, not you will note, within “the” range of those expectations. It also uses virtually every excuse available to modern management on how to avoid blame for its own shortcomings and shift it onto external causes.
Like for like UK sales did rise by 2.1% and online sales, which now account for 35% of those, did even better with a rise of 5.5% but in the end the figure which counts is that total UK sales for the year were up by only 0.8%.
It is on the international retail battlefield where Mothercare failed miserably Worldwide sales fell by 4.5% due not to the failings of management but to external causes for which management has no responsibility whatsoever.
International — ongoing economic and currency headwinds – — so sterling collapses and it is a disaster, just like it was when sterling was continually on the rise.
Middle East – lower oil prices
Asia – weakening consumer confidence
Europe & Latin America – again its those nasty adverse currency movements.
What Mothercare is really saying, without openly wanting to admit as much, is that its management failed to meet a single challenge presented by world markets. And they are all still in situ it appears, at least so far.
Debenham DEB is losing its CEO who has handed in his resignation today as the group announced a record Christmas and a 2.5% rise in the interim dividend. Profit before tax for the 26 weeks to the 27th February was up by 5.5% and basic earnings per share by 5.1%, the result of what the company describes as a strong operating performance. Internationally the picture was not as good with international EBITDA down by 5.8% due to ( go on, have a guess) – adverse currency movements. full year results are expected to be in line.
Lite Bulb Group LBB looks as if it is about to disappear from AIM following the resignation with immediate effect of finnCap Ltd. as its nominated advisor and broker. LBB says it is highly unlikely that it will appoint another NOMAD so in a months time it will automatically and unceremoniously be thrown off AIM. Should we keep our eyes on the woodwork and see what then comes crawling out.
Alan Green discusses Morrisons (MRW), Debenhams (DEB) & Greggs (GRG) on TipTV with Nick ‘Moose’ Batsford.
Morrisons MRW claims to have benefited over the 9 weeks to the 3rd January from what it repeatedly describes as an improved shopping trip for its customers. Like for like sales, excluding fuel rose by 0.2% which may be seen as a good result against a background of the closure of 140 local stores plus further supermarket closures.
Xmas online sales surged by 100%.
Price deflation, especially to someone brought up in an inflationary world, seems to be staggering. Over one year Morrisons prices have fallen by 3.2 % and over 2 years by 7%.
Second half profits are now expected to be greater than first half.
Debenhams DEB is one of the few retailers who can claim to have got its planning right. Firstly it got its stock levels right and even more importantly it planned for the weather which we actually got rather than the weather which all the other retailers expected. The result is that it was not left with a huge overhang of unsold outdoor wear.
It claims to have experienced strong multi channel sales growth over the 7 week Xmas period to the 9th January but despite that, growth at 2.9% was down on 2014’s 3.3%. Reported like for like sales growth fell from 2.4% to 1.8%.
Over the 19 week period to 9th January Debenhams experienced a substantial all round improvement over the previous year, with gross transactions up by 2.5% and reported like for like sales up by 1.9%.
But the real Xmas winner so far appears to be cheeky little Greggs (GRG). 2015 was a year of excellent progress and its seasonal favourites, mince pies and Festive Bake, made a strong contribution to Xmas sales. With 122 new shops as against only 74 closures in 2015, total sales rose by 5.2% and like for like sales in company managed shops were up by 4.7%.
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