A busy morning covering results from Unilever, WH Smith and Casino, along with rumours Diageo will sell its beer business and the government looking at ways for supermarkets to simplify pricing.
First up, The Telegraph quotes analysts at Bernstein who said Guinness owner Diageo could sell its beer business for more than £7bn. Those who watch the industry and looking for the next major shake-up following the ‘Megabrew’ agreement. Trevor Stirling of Bernstein said of Diageo’s portfolio that “beer and spirits do not mix in mature markets” but he did not expect a sale process to start in the “near medium term”.
Supermarket pricing hits the headlines again as the grocers have been told to simplify ‘baffling’ bargain offers. In response to a Competition & Markets Authority investigation into a super-complaint by Which? the government’s business department is launching a consultation on how to make pricing simpler. Consumer minister Nick Boles, said: “Shoppers need to be able to get the best deal and make comparisons easily so we will look at how we can make information on price as clear and as simple as possible.”(The Times) (The Guardian)
News that Tesco has agreed a £250m deal to offload 14 development sites across London, the South East and Bath gets a good showing. The retailer estimated the land sold to real estate investment management company Meyer Bergman had the potential to be transformed in to 3,000 houses (The Financial Times).
WH Smith credited its bumper profits to a sharp increase in sales at its airport stores (The Times). The group’s pre-tax profits jumped 8% to £123m in the year to August, with a 4% like-for-like increase in sales from its travel division. The paper’s Tempus column said the airport strategy was good for the long haul. However it added: “It is an odd sort of retailer that can celebrate flat like-for-like sales as the best result in 13 years. WH Smith is an odd sort of retailer.”
McDonald’s UK accounts for 2014 have revealed the fast food chain overstated its sales in the previous year by £130m because of an error (The Telegraph). The British subsidiary originally posted revenues of almost £1.5bn for 2013 but admitted in Companies House accounts for 2014 that sales had actually been £1.37bn. A spokesman for the business said the mistake had been caused by “a simple human error due to the misplacement of a decimal point”.
The Times reports that Marks & Spencer has refused to lower prices in its hospital shops to put them in line with the high street. An investigation by the paper found mark-ups in hospital outlets of WH Smith and Marks & Spencer for products such as “get well soon” cards and snacks.
Unilever sales topped expectations after summer success of Ben and Jerry’s and Magnum ice-cream. The consumer goods giant reported sales growth on an underlying basis of 5.7% in the three months to end-September, well above the 3.9% analyst estimates (The Independent). The Telegraph’s Questor share tip column recommended to buy stock for the long term: “The FTSE 100 company’s strong trading update, combined with its impressive cash performance, make it one to hold on to.”
French retailer Casino posted same-store sales in France up 2.4% in the third quarter, compared to flat figures in the previous quarter and negative for the three quarters before that. Shares in the grocer rose 7% on the news. The FT’s Lex column said it was a “decent card in an otherwise scary hand” with collapsing currencies in Latin America pushing sales down by a quarter in the region.