Retail shares were among the better performers as economic turmoil in Greece and political uncertainty ahead of the general election here took a toll on the market overall.
Fashion goliath Next issued a first-quarter sales update on Wednesday, when it also warned that it was “very cautious” about prospects, because a new government will have to address the UK’s budget deficit. Next said: “Whatever form this action takes, it is likely that it will act to restrain growth in consumer spending.” The retailer was confident nevertheless that profits would come in at the top end of expectations of between £525m and £565m.
Next’s total sales rose 4.1% in the period, including a 2.2% like-for-like rise. Singer, advising buy, said the update “confirmed that the business is still performing at the top end of expectations” and that the Directory arm did particularly well. The broker maintained: “The shares should respond positively, depending on the underlying markets, which have clearly come under pressure.”
Walmart-owned Asda made headlines with the launch of its price guarantee, promising an end to supermarket price wars. Shore Capital commented acidly that “there is no price war to end and there hasn’t been one since 1995”. Shore observed: “We struggle to see how this will lead to materially greater competition and a challenge to our earnings forecasts.” The broker rates Tesco and Morrisons buy and Sainsbury’s hold.
As new boss Marc Bolland got his feet under the table at Marks & Spencer, Collins Stewart reiterated its sell advice. The broker said that Bolland is unlikely to reveal his strategy until autumn and, although M&S’s recent fourth-quarter update showed momentum in clothing, The broker highlighted “the tougher comps the business faces, together with uncertainty around consumer sentiment post the election”.
Argos-owner Home Retail began its £150m share buyback on Tuesday. Shore Capital rates the retailer a buy, arguing that the market is undervaluing the retailer’s cash flow and that any potential bidder could afford to pay 370p a share and make a 20% return a year.
Buy SuperGroup, advised house broker Seymour Pierce, which gives it a target price of 675p. The trendy fashion retailer’s stock has been popular since its 500p-per-share initial public offering and was trading at 617p this week. Seymour Pierce said: “The company is on track to achieve forecasts as per the prospectus and is expected to see significant earnings growth over the next couple of years from a continuation of the store roll-out plan, rapid development of the internet business and expansion overseas.”