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Alan Green and John Woolfitt, Director at Atlantic Capital Markets discuss the month ahead.
We discuss the US Fed August meeting, and indications from Fed boss Jerome Powell that the administration was prepared to ride with higher inflation around 2%. The markets seems to translate as low interest rates for years to come…John gives his view.
John discusses the resilience of mining and commodity stocks in the face of the economic turmoil and Coronavirus threat, along with some of the trading calls from Atlantic over the past month.
Finally we look at some trading ideas and upcoming corporate news in September from Halfords #HFD, Meggitt #MGGT, JD Sports #JD, Travis Perkins #TPK, Tullow Oil #TLW and Costain #COST. Given the volatility in the markets, John advises using the Atlantic Alerts system – moving after the results not before. “If the tide goes out, make sure you’ve got some shorts on”.
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.
Redrow plc RDW has delivered another year of strong growth, record results and an excellent trading performance, with the number of new houses sold during the year rising by 9%. and the full year dividend hiked by a massive 65%. The average selling price was hiked by 7% during the year which some cynics may argue is way way above the general rate of inflation. but in the housebuilding industry with its friends in government, who cares. Group revenue rose by 16% to a record £1.92bn. Profit before tax also hit a new record with a 21% rise to £380m and earnings per share were up by 22%.
WPP plc WPP The new Chief Execuive, Mike Read, goes on the attack with an opening statement announcing the interim results and stressing that the second quarter of 2018 was WPP’s first quarter of like-for-like growth since Q1 2017.and that it has performed strongly in terms of winning and retaining business over the half year.Profit before tax rose by 8.5% or 14.2% on a constant currency basis and profit after tax by 11.3% or 16.8% . Billings on a constant currency basis rose by 4.1% and revenue by 2.9%. The interim dividend remains unchanged. at 22.7p per share.
DS Smith plc SMDS continues to be excited by its prospects and has enjoyed good like for like volume growth in all geographical sectors, in the quarter since the 1sr May. In particular the north America paper and packaging division, has performed very strongly.
Halfords Group plc HFD updates for the first 20 weeks of the current year that the trading environment remained challenging. Revenue rose by 3.9%, car maintenance leading the way with a rise of 4.5%. Guidance for the year remains unchanged.
Halfords Group plc HFD found itself facing a challenging retail environment in the year to 30th. March which is Boardspeak for “we lost the plot a bit”. Like for like revenue rose by 2% and total revenue by 3.7%. but profit before tax fell by 5% and basic earnings per share wee down by 2.3% which was not sufficient to prevent a 3% rise in the full year ordinary dividend. As for the current year, the motoring market is expected to remain robust and there are good growth prospects for cycllng.
Cranswick plc CWK delivered a strong financial performance across each of its four product categories in the year to 31st March and the full year dividend is to be increased by 21.8% to 53.7p. Like for like revenue rose by 12.7% and export sales surged by 30.2%. Statutory profit before tax increased by 13.5% and like for like earnings per share by 11%.
Pets at home Grp PETS claims to be back on a better footing after a drop of 16.6% in statutory profit before tax for the year to 29th March. . Group like for like revenue grew by 5,5% as against 1.5% for 2017. The total dividend is maintined at 7.5% and the new Chief Executive is both proud and excited to be taking over and sees a bright future ahead.
Entertainment One Ltd eOne reports another year of double digit growth in profits and earnings..Despite a 4% drop in revenue for the year to 31st March, adjusted profit before tax was up by 11% (or 116% on a reported basis) and the full year dividend is being increased from 1.3p per share to 1.4p. eOne claims that its market has now changed and customers, with the exception of sports vents, want to watch what they want, where they want and when they want. It believes that its three pronged strategy of connect, create and deliver, will drive rvenue and ABITDA growth.
Whitbread WTB is forced to delve deep into the excuses and jargon drawer to try and explain away its weak UK performance during quarter 3. It concentrates on total sales growth figures which look quite reasonable until one looks at how it fared on a like for like basis.Thus group sales growth came in at 5.6% with the UK performance lagging far behind with a like for like rise at a miserable 0.3%, market conditions being blamed, for continuing to get tougher. Hotels were flat and worst of all at Costa they actually fell by 0.1%. Here blame is allocated to “weak retail market footfall negatively impacting high street stores.” The role of management in all this does not even get a mention. Gone are the days, it would seem when management accepted responsibility for a company’s affairs, provided they have gone well.
Associated British Foods plc ABF For the 16 weeks to the 6th January all businesses delivered revenue sales growth of 4% on a continuing basis although at actual exchange rates this dropped to 3%. Primark sales grew by 7% at constant currency rates, as selling space was increased and Christmas week broke previous records. In grocery, progress has been made in reducing the loss and in sugar the UK crop will be significantly larger but prices will be lower. No views are expressed about the future in 2018.
Halfords HFD expects retail sales for 2018 wil be subdued as the retail environment continues to be difficult but for the 15 weeks to 12th January it enjoyed good trading especially over what it calls “peak including Xmas”. Third quarter sales revenue rose by 2.7% compared to 1.9% for the 41 weeks of the year to date. Car maitenance led the way with with rises of 2.1% whilst he quarter 3 laggard was travel solutions with a drop of 4.1% as against a rise of 4.2% for the year so far. Cycling took a clear lead with a rise of 7.8% for the quarter compared to 3.9% for the year.
Royal Mail RMG delivered a good performance over Xmas and over the 9 months to the 24th December parcel volumes rose by 6% producing a reveue increase of 4%. Addressed letter volume fell by only 5% which was better than expected and overall group revenue was up by 2%.
Eddie Stobart ESL Revenue for the year to 30th November rose by 12% with E commerce sales more than doubling to £103m. Operating margins were strong and improved across all sectors and for the current year growth is ahead of the prior year, again, across all sectors
Sainsbury SBRY hs been forced to cut its interim dividend by 14% to 3.1p. Despite all the hype about outperforming this and growing market share in challenging conditions etc etc, in the end it was forced to choose between sticking to its strict policy of paying an interim dividend equal to 30% of the prior full year dividend or leaving it as it was, so it chose to cut. And looking at the figures that comes as no surprise. Underlying earnings per share and profit before tax fell by 22% and 9% respectively whilst on a statutory basis profit before tax slumped from 372m to 220m and earnings per share collapsed by over 50% from 14.8 pence per share to 7.1p. The Group Chief Executive regards this as a good performance. Like for like sales for the half year to 23rd September do provide a better picture with rise of 1.6% including fuel.
Burberry Group BRBY is increasing its interim dividend by 10% after delivering a strong first half which double digit underlying profit growth of 17% after revenue growth of 4% on an underlying basis and 9% reported. It is perhaps significant that Burberry has a strong international presence which will help to protect it from the ills afflicting British retailers.
National Grid NG maintained strong momentum in the US and continued to deliver a solid performance in the UK during the half year to 30th September. Despite all round falls in profit before tax, operating profit and earnings per share, which senior executives now seem to regard as an essential before their company can be described as a success, the interim dividend is tweaked upwards by 2.1%.
Stobart Group STOB The new CEO who has only been in post for two months has issued a surprise warning that the company faces short term risks in both energy and aviation and that there will be short term delays in the company’s value creation potential although the long term potential remains unaffected. Despite the popularity of Southend airport where passenger numbers rose by 22% in the 5 months to the 31st July, more airlines need to be persuaded to use it. In energy, problems have been caused by delays in commissioning new power stations and in the take up of agreed bio mass volumes, with only 40,000 tonnes being supplied out of a notified 190 tonnes. The second half should see some amelioration in the position with expectations that deliveries will reach 330 tonnes.
Halfords HFD Like for like revenue for the 20 weeks to the 18th August rose by 2.7% with retail growing by 3.5% and auto centres down by 2% “as planned”. No explanation is given as to how or why the decline was planned (editor has a good idea – sic). The strongest areas were travel solutions with growth of 8.2% and cycling which was up by 5.2%.
Redrow RDW has delivered record financial results for the fourth consecutive year and a final dividend of 11p per share makes a 70% increase for the year to 30th June. And that is nothing compared to what the future three years will bring, with expectations that 2017’s 17p total will in 2020 have nearly doubled to 32p per share. As for 2017 legal completions rose by 15%, revenue by 20%, profit before tax by 26% and earnings per share by 27%. Sales in the first 9 weeks of the new financial year are up 8% on a year ago.
Mattioli Woods MTW enjoyed strong new business flows during the year to the 31st May leading to a 17.4% rise in revenue, 18% in EBITDA and 18.7% in basic earnings per share. The final dividend is to be increased by 12.8%. The company;s financial position is described as strong with net cash of £23m
Lighthouse Group LTG made further progress in the 6 months to the 30th June with revenue rising by 8% leading to rises in EBITDA and basic earnings per share of 26% and 35% respectively. The interim dividend is to be increased by 33% to 12p per share.
Bovis Homes BVS Issues a trading up date for the year to date and what a good year it has been. Demand for new homes has outstripped supply. Of course credit for that can be given mainly to the government, rather than the house building industry which can just sit back, hikes is prices as much as it dare and watch the profits come rolling in. Bovis has not been backward at this and admits to increasing its average selling prices robustly i.e by 10%, in order to help it deliver what it hopes will be record revenues for 2016. Completions for the year will be 5% ahead of last year so with the 10% price rise on top, those record revenue (more socially correct than record profits) seem virtually gauranteed.
Auto Trader Grp AUTO There is no holding back the fearless British consumer once he, or she, has got the bit between the teeth and so it goes for Autotrader which is more than tripling its interim dividend for the six months to the 25th September. On a rise of 11% in revenue, operating profit was up by 21% and basic earnings per share by 28%. And as for that interim dividend, it is raised from 0.5p to 1.7p. Growth expectations for the second half are expected to ne met.
Halfords HFD is increasing its interim dividend by 3% on the basis that a 12% fall in profits and a 13.5% decline in basic earnings per share represents a strong sales performance. True, like for like revenue for the 6 months to the 30th September did rise by 2% but the CEO admits that the rise can only be justified by progress on strategy implementation which is intended to transform the future of the company.There are some grounds for optimism in that like for like sales for the 6 weeks to the end of September did rise by 6.1% and total revenue was up by 12.3% but that at present is a very short term view. Halfords has also been buffeted by the headwinds of currency fluctuations but claims to have found ways of mitigating these. The next quarter with Christmas trading could be all important.