Marks & Spencer investors panic after shock release of festive retail figures

Retail group clawed back losses in a rollercoaster day after early trading wiped almost £300m off the company’s value

Shares in Marks & Spencer endured a tumultuous trading session as a panicky reaction to the surprise release of Christmas trading figures wiped nearly £300m off the retailer’s value, but the group clawed back most of the losses by the close of the day.

At one point investors knocked more than 5% off the value of M&S. The shares recovered, closing down 2.2p at 368.8p.

A rattled M&S chief executive, Marc Bolland, took the unusual step of releasing figures 12 hours ahead of schedule after the results, showing a 1.8% fall in sales over the festive period, were leaked.

Jeremy Batstone-Carr, an analyst at Charles Stanley, described the figures as “slightly disappointing”, paring back his earnings valuation on the stock by a small amount.

There are no indications yet of unusual trading patterns around the alleged leaking of price sensitive figures. Data Explorers, the research firm which monitors trading behaviour associated with short selling, said many short sellers had appeared to lose interest in M&S a while ago. The percentage of stock on loan — a key measure of short-seller interest — peaked at 6.5% in May and had been flat, at just under 3%, for some time. Figures were available up to Monday of this week. A short seller looks to profit from a drop in a share price.

Bolland insisted in a hastily-arranged conference call with reporters on Wednesday night that M&S had not issued a profits warning, despite reporting a 1.8% fall in overall sales for the 13 weeks to 29 December.

M&S declined to comment on whether an investigation into the early release was under way. “Our priority is to communicate the results to the market, and give people a fair stab at analysing them,” it said. Since joining the firm in May 2010 Bolland has shaken up the management team – with fashion boss Kate Bostock departing last autumn. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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