August 15, 2018

Marks & Spencer tackles structural issues as profits slump

23 May 2018, 04:56 | Rodolfo Wallace

Toby Melville Reuters

Toby Melville  Reuters

FTSE 100-listed Marks & Spencer PLC said on Wednesday that profit slumped in its recently ended financial year, as it works to rectify "a number of structural issues" at the company.

M&S reset its strategy in November, two months after retail veteran Archie Norman joined as chairman, detailing a five-year programme of store closures and relocations, and moves to make its misfiring food business more competitive. The shares are outperforming the broader United Kingdom market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index having slipped into the red and now standing 0.56 percent lower at 7,833.17 points.

The high street staple's pre-tax profits plunged 62.1pc to £66.8m for the year ending March 2018, largely impacted by£321.1m of costs linked to shutting underperforming shops. In addition, M&S reported strong cash generation, even after restructuring costs reduced net debt by 107.2 million pounds, enabling the group to maintain a full year dividend of 18.7p.

The update comes after the retailer announced the next tranche of United Kingdom stores proposed for closure yesterday, noting that it would now close over 100 stores in total by 2022. The full stores stock both fashion and food.

Adjusted pretax profit still fell 5.4% to GBP580.9 million, hit by a decrease in its Food gross margin, which fell "more than expected" by 140 basis points during the year.

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"This is vital as we start to leverage the strength of the M&S brand and values across a family of businesses to deliver sustainable, profitable growth in three to five years".

That was ahead of analysts' average forecast of £573 million but down from £613.8 million made in 2016-17. "These changes come with short term costs which are reflected in today's results", said Steve Rowe, Marks & Spencer CEO in a statement.

M&S lost more ground in its fourth quarter, with like-for-like clothing and home sales down 3.4 percent, worse than the previous quarter's 2.8 percent drop, and same store food sales down 0.6 percent, against a third quarter fall of 0.4 percent.

M&S is not the only retailer finding the going tough in Britain.

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