The Week Ahead: Figures due from Tesco, Associated British Foods, Ladbrokes and William Hill

Tesco reports annual results on Wednesday following a challenging year.
Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA W

Tesco reports annual results on Wednesday following a challenging year. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Supermarket giant Tesco will count the cost of a disastrous year in annual results this week but boss Dave Lewis will also seize the opportunity to highlight his revival plan.

Tesco is forecast to deliver a huge fall in annual profit on Wednesday, even as sweeping changes made by its new boss begin to improve trading.

The City expects the country’s largest supermarket to post an underlying profit down 65% at around £1.07billion after a series of profit warnings, an accounting scandal and the loss of sales and market share to rivals such as Aldi and Lidl.

At the bottom-line, Tesco is expected to report a big loss due to a one-off hit of up to £3bn on the diminished value of the company’s property estate.

But last week Tesco saw sales grow by 0.3% giving it a 28.4% market share in the 12 weeks to March 29, according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel data, and the retailer lifted sales by 1.1% in the quarter before that.

Brokers at Jefferies said “Tesco’s finals should confirm that progress is coming through in UK retail,” but added that the path to margin recovery “remains a long one.”

Sliding sales at the retailer saw chief executive Phil Clarke replaced by Unilever executive Dave Lewis last September in a bid to restore the fortunes of the supermarket’s core UK business.

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In January Tesco published the location of 43 loss-making stores that will close, and shelved plans to open a further 49 stores. He has also cut prices across hundreds of lines.

Other changes under Mr Lewis include shutting Tesco’s final salary pension scheme, disposing of its loss-making blinkbox online video operation and moving its headquarters from Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City in a measure expected to save £250million. It will also not pay a final dividend this year.

In February John Allan agreed to step down from the boards of electrical retailer Dixons Carphone and the Royal Mail to become the new chairman of Tesco.

He replaced Sir Richard Broadbent who announced his resignation last October after a £263m accounting blunder involving rebates to suppliers. The matters, which go back a number of years, are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Lewis continues to seek ways to cut costs and in March he completed a £733m property swap deal with developer British Land involving a number of stores. As a result of a complex series of transactions Tesco will receive £96m from the property firm.

Mr Lewis ruled out a £2bn rights issue at the time of the firm’s interim results in October, but the City will watch to see if that option is still under consideration.

It will also look to see if he intends further disposals in Asia and whether he will sell dunnhumby, the £1.5bn-rated company that launched the Tesco Clubcard in 1994 and led to loyalty schemes sweeping through the industry.

Robust sales at Primark are expected to be offset by weak sugar prices, a strong pound and the effect of the supermarket price wars when conglomerate Associated British Foods posts its half-year results on Tuesday.

The group, which employs 118,000 people in 47 countries, said in a February trading update that these factors would lead to “a marginal decline” in its full-year earnings.

Brokers at Numis forecast that at the half year stage this will translate to a 2.8% slip in adjusted pre-tax profits to £455m.

Discount fashion retailer Primark, which runs 287 stores in the UK and continental Europe, said its sales for the six months to February 28 were about 16% higher on the same period a year ago. However this eases to a 12% rise when the strong pound is taken into account.

The group said sales over the important Christmas period were strong, although total same store sales were held back by unseasonably warm weather in the autumn across northern Europe.

It said it opened ten stores in the period, including outlets in Germany, the Netherlands and a relocation to larger premises of its Northampton store. The retailer increased its selling space by 500,000 sq ft to 10.7 million sq ft, and said its plans to launch eight shops in the US later in 2015 are on track.

Analysts at Nomura said: “We think Primark’s formula of low prices, prime locations and quality retail environments are an unbeatable traffic-driving formula.”

Associated British Foods also runs operations in agriculture, grocery and ingredients. Its brands include Ryvita, Ovaltine, Silver Spoon, Kingsmill and Patak’s.

Over the last two years sugar prices in the European Union have fallen 40% to 433 euros per tonne at the start of the year. As a result, the group said its sugar revenues during the period will be “substantially lower” than a year ago.

It added that profits from its Allied Bakeries unit will also be below last year due to intense competition in the market as supermarkets cut prices on stables such as bread and milk.

Grocery prices are 2% lower than they were last year, according to the latest 12-week data from research group Kantar Worldpanel.

A favourable Grand National will have given bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes a much-needed boost ahead of trading updates this week.

The Aintree meeting was kind to the bookies after the Tony McCoy ridden favourite Shutthefrontdoor failed to win, but this comes after a disappointing Cheltenham Festival and a poor run of recent football results.

The sector is also facing headwinds from the March 1 increase in Machine Gaming Duty from 20% to 25% and the levy of a point of consumption tax.

And political uncertainty continues to weigh on the sector as Labour’s manifesto includes the proposal to give local authorities the option to ban, or reduce, gaming machines from betting shops in their area.

The climate means there is plenty for new Ladbrokes boss Jim Mullen to discuss on Wednesday, having replaced Richard Glynn at the helm of Ladbrokes in recent weeks.

Brokers at Numis said the firm, which has lagged behind the online success of William Hill, will post a 2% fall in first quarter operating profits to £18m.

Ladbrokes recently announced it would close another 60 shops this year, on top of the 89 it closed over the previous 12 months.

Mr Mullen was promoted from Ladbrokes’ head of digital operations, having joined the business in 2013 after three years at rival William Hill where he was chief operating officer of its online unit.

William Hill suffered a 14% drop in operating profits in the first quarter of last year due to two weeks of poor football results and Numis expects the figure to fall again in the same period this year due to more unfavourable results when the bookmaker posts its trading update on Thursday.

However Numis believes the more successful online unit will grow by 15% in the period, although retail revenues from its 2,362 betting shops will be flat.

The City will also want know more about Williams Hill’s plans for growth after its £709 million bid for online rival 888 Holdings collapsed in February because it could not agree a price with the target’s major shareholders.