There’s mixed coverage of Tesco’s return to annual profit in the papers after the supermarket’s shares were driven down by a surprisingly downbeat outlook for 2017. “Tesco counting its profit with City at a loss”, it the headline in The Times (£), while The Financial Times (£) begins its write-up: “Tesco warned investors on Wednesday not to expect a surge in profits, sending its shares sharply lower”. Similarly The Guardian’s piece is headlined: “Tesco warns on profit growth in tough retail market”.
A more positive take in The Telegraph reads: “Tesco has inched back into the black following its battle to turn around from the biggest loss in British corporate history.” The Daily Mail leads with the story that Tesco’s return to profit means its 300,000 employees – from shop workers to management – will be handed a one-off ‘turnaround bonus’ of around 5 per cent of salary.
The FT’s Lex colum says Tesco has posted “good numbers and the market expects more to come”. It cautions of the pressures from discounters, lack of international growth opportunities and the balance of keeping stores up to date and capital investment remaining under control, but concludes. “A fine balance, but Tesco has shown that progress is possible.” (The Financial Times £)
A broadly supportive Nils Pratley in The Guardian writes that Tesco “can’t be faulted on strategy so far”. “It is fair – for the time being, at least – for Lewis to plead for time. The new regime can’t be faulted on what it has done so far. The top priority was always to arrest the slide in sales, and that has been achieved.” (The Guardian)
But Alistair Osborne in The Times (£) writes: “Britain’s biggest supermarket chain is a dividend-free outfit with stagnating profits, bouncing around on a prospective multiple of about 22 times earnings. You need proper significant progress to justify that.” (The Times £)
While McCormick walking away from making a bid for Premier Foods – and its subsequent share price slump - is in all the papers today (The Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail) the company gets a particular kicking in today’s FT.
“Premier Foods came under attack from shareholders after McCormick, the US spice maker, walked away from a proposed £537m takeover, precipitating a near 27 per cent drop in the British cake and custard makers’ shares,” the paper writes, after it was criticised again by US investment firm Paulson & Co. (The Financial Times £)
“Mr Kipling’s handling of McCormick offer exceedingly badly done” is the headline of its Lombard column, writing that Premier Foods’ shareholders would have been better off if McCormick had taken over. (The Financial Times £)
While the FT’s Lex column writes: “This is going to leave a bad taste… In a deflationary price environment, that growth rate [2-4%] would be sector-beating. But shareholders, long used to thin gruel, should not expect a feast.” (The Financial Times £)
Joining in, Alistair Osborne of The Times (£) writes: “The upshot is that McCormick has walked, leaving Mr Darby neck-deep in treacle… Maybe he can persuade Nissin, which has overpaid for a fifth of Premier, to overpay for the rest. Failing that, he’ll have to work exceedingly hard to keep his job.”
Elsewhere, Colouring books for grown-ups and expansion in airports and railway stations has helped push stationer WH Smith to its best results in more than a decade (The Daily Mail). The Telegraph and The Guardian also both concentrate on adult colouring books, with the latter writing “extreme dot-to-dot and colouring-in craze” boosted sales.
Meanwhile, the Post Office is facing criticism after agreeing to hand over up to 61 more branches to WH Smith in a 10-year deal. (The Guardian)
The food giant that makes Mars bars is to introduce new labelling advising consumers that its Dolmio pasta meal kits and ready-made sauces – high in sugar, salt and fat – should be eaten only occasionally. (The Guardian)