Fears of a damaging boardroom split send shares down after Marks & Spencer rushed out poor Christmas sales figures
Almost £270m was wiped off the stock market value of Marks & Spencer after it rushed out poor Christmas sales figures on Wednesday night.
Growing fears of a damaging boardroom split sent shares in M&S down by over 4.5% on Thursday, to 353p, as the City gave its verdict on the disappointing performance at Britain’s biggest clothing retailer over the festive season.
Chief executive Marc Bolland insisted last night, in a hastily-arranged conference call with reporters, 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. But the highly unusual early release of the blue chip company’s results – after they were leaked – piles the pressure on the CEO.
Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Bolland had “yet to deliver” since being lured from supermarket chain Morrisons almost three years ago.
“M&S continues to test investors’ faith in its recovery strategy … New management hires have yet to take effect, whilst a core drive to expand international sales has been constrained by currency movements and macro-economic weakness in such countries as Ireland and Greece,” Bowman said.
M&S declined to comment on whether an investigation into the early release of the results was under way.
“Our priority is to communicate the results to the market, and give people a fair stab at analysing them,” said an M&S spokesperson.
Since joining the firm in May 2010 Bolland has shaken up the management team – with fashion boss Kate Bostock departing last autumn.
Freddie George of Seymour Pierce fears that many shoppers passed through M&S this Christmas without getting their purses and wallets outs.
“We are concerned that the stores during the critical and important two weeks before Christmas would have had the footfall but did not get the spend,” George said. He cut his target share price for M&S to 350p.
Bolland’s strategic vision for M&S, announced in November 2010, was based on building on the legacy left by Sir Stuart Rose, rather than ripping up the company’s plans.
Neil Shah, global head of research at Edison Investment Research, dubbed M&S a “a lumbering supertanker”.
“M&S risks being left in the lost middle ground with Next stealing market share from above in pricier mass fashion and ABF-owned Primark pinching from below via the affordable underwear staple garments for family shoppers,” Shah added.
General merchandise sales at M&S slid by 3.8% in the last 13 weeks of 2012, while the 0.3% in food sales also missed forecasts.