Kesa chairman David Newlands has downplayed the suggestion that stakebulding by investor Knight Vinke indicates sweeping change is likely at the electricals group.
Newlands declined to detail any conversation between Kesa and Knight Vinke but said it was “quite normal”. He said: “They’re showing interest in the business as befits a large shareholder.”
He said Knight Vinke had bought shares at a similar time to when he and members of management also bought shares. “I think they spotted an undervaluation and have taken advantage of it,” he said.
Newlands was sceptical that there would be consolidation in UK electricals retail, despite the launch in this country of US giant Best Buy’s big-box operation. He said consolidation was difficult because of the presence of “one very big player” - market leader Dixons, owner of Currys and PC World.
Kesa chief executive Thierry Falque-Pierrotin said Comet had been unaffected by Best Buy’s debut. Comet enjoyed increased footfall and sales when Best Buy opened nearby.
Comet suffered a widened loss in the interim period to October 31, up from €1.8m to €6.4m (£1.5m to £5.4m). Total sales at constant currency were down 2.6% to €864.1m (£726.5m), a 3.7% like-for-like decline. Spending on store refits and rebranding had an impact, as did trading conditions that toughened as the period went on.
However, Falque-Pierrotin said Comet’s refitted stores were showing sales uplifts of 18% and gross margins up 15%. Web sales rose 8% in the half and now account for 14.6% of Comet’s total.