General retailers lagged the All-Share index and their food peers as doubts were cast over stores’ IPO hopes.
New Look’s flotation ambitions were put on ice as investors went on strike against private equity-backed firms coming to market, and there were continued jitters about retailers’ prospects generally.
KBC Peel Hunt analyst John Stevenson said: “Given the weak retail backdrop and uncertainty, any potential IPO will need to demonstrate a clear niche, strong organic growth prospects and a compelling valuation against the sector.
“The latter point is likely to rule out those private equity-backed retailers that see the quoted market as an easy exit; we do not see investors applying premium valuations to new retail flotations, particularly those in which the current owners have no intention of maintaining a stake.”
However, fashion specialist SuperGroup - owner of the trendy Superdry brand - is pressing on with a listing. The retailer, debt-free and growing fast, intends to raise £125m from its float, which will enable the founders to realise part of their investment and accelerated expansion.
Stevenson said: “While the business is clearly riding the fashion wave at present, management will need to convince investors that the brand offers longevity and that the business offers a pipeline of other brands.”
Online food group Ocado, which is not private equity-backed, is thought still to be hopeful of an IPO. Broker Collins Stewart remains unconvinced of Ocado’s merits. Analyst Greg Lawless said: “We have struggled with the economics of a central picking model - picked in Hatfield, delivered to Leeds and Portsmouth - when compared with the store picking model of the other major food retailers.”
Buy Asos, reiterated Panmure Gordon after a meeting with management. The broker is particularly excited about the etailer’s international potential and noted: “We think focus on the US, France and Germany makes sense. The international strategy now seems far more defined than it was at the time of the interim results.”
Investec upgraded Argos-owner Home Retail from hold to buy. The broker believes “the Argos customer proposition remains intact” and that group cash generation is positive. “With the shares down almost 20% from the recent peak, yielding almost 4% on the final dividend alone, significant downside risk is already fully discounted,” the broker maintained.
Buy Mulberry, advised house broker Altium after the luxury group issued its pre-close update.
A good Christmas and the successful launch last month of the new Alexa handbag range led the retailer to report that full-year earnings will be “significantly” ahead of expectations.