Tesco (TSCO) looks to be closing in on a new chairman after its two person shortlist for the role was reportedly cut to one over the weekend.
Deputy chairman of newly merged Dixons Carphone John Allan is thought to be the number one choice for the role after an Ian Cheshire, the former boss of B&Q owner Kingfisher, bowed out of the race as he hopes to secure another chief executive role.
Allan would certainly fit the bill given his history at Dixons (and Somerfield predecessor Fine Fare) – Tesco is looking for a chairman with deep retail experience to help negate new CEO Dave Lewis’ own lack of experience in running a major retailer in the past. Reports suggest the appointment could be confirmed as early as this week, though there may be concern that Allan is now seemingly on his way to succeed Sir Richard Broadbent in an uncontested process. Don’t rule out a new name being thrown into the hat late in the process.
It’s been a fairly quiet start to the week, with only Ukrainian poultry producer MHP updating the market this morning. Issuing a pre-close trading update for 2014, the firm saw an 18% boost to poultry volumes and 25% price growth, partly thanks to strengthening domestic demand due to “significant depreciation of local currency”.
Elsewhere, the sector’s shares were generally trading up this morning – with Sainsbury’s (SBRY) as the most notable mover. The supermarket opened 2.8% higher at 262.5p, negating some of its share price falls from last week.
LAST WEEK IN THE CITY
The supermarkets were again subject to heavy selling on Friday, further underlying the notion that their recent good run has come to an end.
Sainsbury’s (SBRY) was one of the FTSE 100’s top fallers to end the week – dropping 3.3% to 255.2p, while Morrisons (MRW) was 2.7% down to 179.9p and Tesco (TSCO) fell back 1% to 224.8p. Ocado was also down 1.2% to 411p ahead of its annual results next week.
After a strong start to the year both Sainsbury’s and Tesco are down by just under 5% over the course of last week, while Morrisons has fallen back by almost 10% to hit its lowest level since Dalton Philips’ departure was announced in mid-January.
The sell-off was partially driven by news that grocery retailers could be hit with heavy fines over their treatment of suppliers after the government gave the Groceries Code Adjudicator more powers to take retailers to task.
The supermarkets’ falls belied some positive retail data to end the week after polling company GfK found a surprise jump in UK consumer confidence. Its consumer confidence barometer jumped five points in January to its highest level since the summer. Meanwhile, while the CBI distributive trades survey found showed that retail volumes grew at a faster pace than expected.
IN THE DIARY
Ocado’s (OCDO) preliminary results for the year to 30 November stand out as the sector’s biggest story on the London Stock Exchange this week.
Tomorrow, the online grocer is widely expected to reveal its first-ever annual profit after a year of strong trading. In December, the group revealed growth had slowed in its final quarter as gross retail sales rose 14.9% to £311.4m, compared with a 15.5% increase during the previous three months – gross group turnover, which includes its tie-up with Morrisons, jumped by 18.6% to £331.9m. It tipped total revenue for the year to past the £1bn mark as more shoppers turned to the internet for their groceries.
Earlier this month CEO Tim Steiner said the solid growth had continued into the new financial year. On the biggest day leading up to Christmas, sales were almost £6m, a rise of more than 15% on the previous year, and in the seven days to Christmas, Ocado’s customer fulfilment centres processed almost 40% more items for Ocado.com and Morrisons.com than over the same period last year.
Up on Wednesday is pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) with an update on the final quarter of 2014. Strong growth in emerging markets was not enough to offset a 10% fall in US sales and another 2% in Europe as group revenues fell 3% to £5.65bn. CEO Andrew Witty also admitted earlier this month that the growing popularity of e-cigarettes was posing a threat to its range of nicotine patches and gum.
Household goods manufacturer McBride posts its half-year figures on Thursday with a solid performance in Germany keeping trading in line with expectations. The group said in an update that private label sales for the six months to 31 December 2014 grew by 0.5% in constant currency. McBride added that its UK restructuring plans was “progressing well”.
A third quarter update from dairy Crest – also on Thursday – will shed more light on how the processor is holding up in the current challenging trading environment. The Cathedral City and Clover owner revealed earlier this month that it will lose a third of its Morrisons supply contract to rival Arla from March this year following a competitive tendering process.
Cake chain Patisserie Valerie and pubco Enterprise Inns both hold their annual general meetings on Thursday. And internationally Marlboro owner Philip Morris files its fourth quarter results in the US.
Away from the stock markets, a host of economic data is issued as February gets underway. PMI manufacturing stats are out later this morning followed by construction tomorrow and services on Wednesday. The latest British Retail Consortium shop price index is also released on Wednesday, with the Bank of England interest decision the day after and the balance of trade figures on Friday.