Booker shares 12 July

Booker shares continued their slide on Wednesday after reporting a sharp fall in Makro sales. The wholesaler said non-tobacco sales at its acquired Makro business were down 12% in the first quarter, explaining that the drop was down to exiting unprofitable product categories. But some analysts were not convinced. JP Morgan cut its price target for the stock from 195p to 160p. “We were assuming that the bulk of this process had already been done,” it said.

Other analysts were more upbeat. Shore Capital said Booker’s relatively high valuations were difficult to sustain given the supermarket price war despite its “embryonic exposure to the discount channel” and that Makro strengthened Booker’s presence in the faster growing catering sector. Shares, down 25% from their 176.5p high in March, sank 4% at one point on Wednesday but recovered to close 0.8p up at 131.8p.

One of the big fallers of the week was Marks & Spencer. Although there were some encouraging signs in the first-quarter sales figures published on Tuesday, including positive like-for-like growth in womenswear, M&S reported a drop in online sales and a slowdown in food sales growth. It then emerged on Thursday that CFO Alan Stewart was leaving for Tesco. As of Thursday afternoon, the shares had dropped 4.9% to 415p since close on Friday. Tesco shares edged up 1p to 280.5p on Thursday morning.

Associated British Foods was another significant faller this week, dropping 1.9% to 2942p on Thursday morning. It reported a 5% drop in constant currency grocery sales that it blamed largely on lost contracts at Silver Spoon and a 20% drop in sales from its sugar processing arm.

On Wednesday, Thorntons published a mixed set of figures for the fourth quarter. Like-for-like retail sales fell 3.9%, but sales through the supermarkets and other retailers rebounded, climbing 17.3%. The shares rose 2.3% on Wednesday, but fell back 5% on Thursday morning to 104.4p.