As the Christmas trading season drew to an end, retailers of all sorts were in fashion.
Although it was hardly a bumper year, the festive season delivered more than many had hoped for and store groups outperformed the All Share index over the week. However, on a yearly basis retail shares significantly lagged the wider market.
Entertainment specialist HMV’s shares surged after the embattled retailer pulled off improved financing terms, with its banks likely to enable a big debt reduction over the next three years.
Seymour Pierce stuck to its sell advice, however. The broker said the agreement with banks was encouraging but fretted over an “unproven” shift from music into digital technology and potentially disappointing proceeds from a sale of HMV Live.
Kesa was one of the week’s biggest fallers. The sale of Comet to private buyer OpCapita should be completed next week but brokers were unimpressed by the performance of Kesa’s French flagship business Darty. Sell advised Investec.
Ocado was up on vague bid speculation last week but a management rejig – including the finance director’s decision to leave for another job – unsettled observers.
Shore Capital, a long-standing seller, cautioned: “We remain concerned that Ocado may yet need to raise further capital from the market if it wishes to see through present plans. In that respect, we question the long-term viability and attraction of the Ocado business model.”
Panmure issued a note on the food retail sector, upgrading Sainsbury’s from hold to buy because of the attractiveness of its dividend yield.
The broker retained its buy advice on Tesco and explained: “The mismatch between supply and demand has claimed Tesco as its prize victim. The risk for the sector is that, in response, Tesco will push through large price cuts as a short-term fix. We don’t think that it will, which is why we retain our long-term positive sector stance and our buy recommendation of Tesco.”
Etailer Asos was in demand after what broker Singer described as an “excellent” update including a bounce-back in UK growth and continued international success.
Singer said: “While the shares have rallied 26% in four weeks, which may limit immediate potential for more, the global opportunity is not priced in.”