Sainsburys and Asda merger could cut hole in shoppers pockets, Waitrose warns

Sainsbury\s and Asda merger could cut hole in shoppers\ pockets, Waitrose warns

FTSE LIVE: Sainsburys warns of uncertain road ahead as it reports jump in profits

Sainsburys warned of an uncertain road ahead for consumer facing companies as it revealed a big hit to profits stemming from costs related to the planned merger with Asda.

Drugs giant Astrazeneca updated investors on its fortunes, with the company seemingly on track to hit its projected numbers.

The comments came as Sainsburys reported a 40% slump in bottom-line profits to £132m for the six months to September 22 after a raft of costs, including store restructuring and expenses related to its planned £12bn merger with Big Four rival Asda.

Elsewhere investment platform AJ Bell posted registration documents for its upcoming stock market float.

Accountancy firm KPMG is to stop undertaking consulting work for FTSE 350 companies where it serves as auditor to avoid conflicts of interest following a string of scandals.

KPMG currently audits 90 FTSE 350 companies and is the first of the big four auditing firms – Deloitte, KPMG, E&Y and PwC – to stop the practice of carrying out non-audit services for companies it audits.

Although it wasnt mentioned during the Chancellors statement last week, the Budget document confirmed that Vehicle and Excise Duty rates would increase in line with inflation from 1 April 2019.

Announcing half-year results, Sainsburys said: The consumer outlook is uncertain as we head into our key trading period.

For buyers of new cars after April this could mean an increase in first year VED rates of up to £65. And owners of existing cars could also be stung, with some having to fork out an extra £15 a year.

Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton has claimed that the fashion brands lacklustre results will aid his attempt to return to the retailer, as he launched a fierce critique of the companys management.

Sales at the group rose 3.1% to £414.6 million in the 26 weeks to October 27, driven by wholesale and online growth, but in-store revenue declined.

Speaking to the Press Association, Mr Dunkerton said the results were a “verification” of his criticism aimed at the companys strategy.

Mr Dunkerton has been speaking to Superdry shareholders to gain support for an attempted return to the company.

Britons looking to renew their passports can now do it digitally at 725 Post Office locations, it has confirmed.  

Working in conjunction with Her Majestys Passport Office, the cost of renewing a passport digitally via Post Office branches is £75.50 – the same rate as online via the gov.uk website – compared with £85 for a paper-based application.

However, an additional fee of £15.40 applies to cover the cost of in-branch support, bringing the total cost to £90.90.

“As November’s Federal Reserve meeting grows ever closer the markets lost some of their post-midterms enthusiasm.

The European Commission can share some of the blame for the dissipation of positivity this Thursday. The EC’s latest projections suggest a gradual slowdown of growth in the Eurozone, from 2.1% in 2018 to 1.9% in 2019 to 1.7% in 2020, as ‘global uncertainty’, ‘trade tensions’ and ‘higher oil prices’ take their toll.

Yet this growth is in a different league to what is predicted for the UK, with the country’s GDP forecasts at 1.3% for 2018 and 1.2% for the subsequent 2 years. That’s a similar level of growth to the troubled and budget-embattled Italy, currently the Eurozone’s least favourite member.

All this doom and gloom played a part in the lacklustre trading. Both the DAX and CAC shed their early gains, with the former actually dipping 0.2%; only the FTSE remained green, its 0.4% rise tethered to cable’s decline.

The pound fell 0.3% against the dollar, sporadically slipping under $1.31, with the euro also down 0.4% to $1.141. It appears that investors are getting nervy ahead of the evening’s Fed statement. The central bank is expected to hold steady despite October’s bloody trading and the latest political reshuffle in the US, leaving an interest rate rise in December very much be on the cards.”

Tim Yeo, chair of the New Nuclear Watch Institute, said: This is a huge disappointment and a crushing blow to hopes of a revival of the UK nuclear energy industry.

Although the Government has been in talks with Kepco over the NuGen project for more than a year it has still not decided what financial package will be offered to enable construction of new nuclear reactors to take place at Moorside.

Commenting on the collapse of plans to build a new nuclear power plant in Cumbria, John Sauven, Greenpeaces UK executive director, said: The end of the Moorside plan represents a failure of the government’s nuclear gamble. 

Their flawed approach to making our economy low carbon has dashed the hopes of prospective workers and businesses in Cumbria that should have been centred around renewable technologies.

The Government now needs to rapidly deploy renewable energy to fill the gap. That means restarting onshore wind, a new deal for expanding solar power, and upping ambition on more offshore wind.

Halfords has become the latest retailer to warn over consumer confidence as it revealed half-year profits dropped by nearly a fifth.

The car parts-to-bicycles chain said shoppers were holding back on spending on discretionary items, which was hurting bike sales in particular.

Halfords reported a 23% fall in half-year pre-tax profits to £28.2 million and said it expected the “short-term conditions for discretionary spend to remain challenging”.

Investing platform AJ Bell has reported revenues up 19 per cent to £89.7million, profit before tax up 31 per cent to £28.4million.

The update comes as the company files registration documents for its upcoming float on the stock market.

Plans to build a new nuclear energy plant in Cumbria have been scrapped after Japan-based conglomerate Toshiba axed the British unit behind the project.

The decision represents a blow to the government’s plans to step up nuclear energy production and the Cumbria plant would have churned out 7 per cent of the countrys electricity.

A spokesman for the governments Business and Energy Department said Toshiba had made a commercial decision, adding that new nuclear remained important.

Sainsburys claims its balance sheet has been given a boost by the inclusion of Argos shops inside its stores.

The supermarket, which is vying to secure a mega-merger deal with rival Asda, said its half-year underlying profits rose 20 per cent to £302million.

But, when a host of exceptional costs are taken into account, Sainsburys profits nearly fell by 40 per cent, from £220million to £132million.  

Luxury fashion brand Burberry said its transformation plan is on track to deliver cost savings of £100million this year, as it hailed an “exceptional” reception for its new head designer.

Cumulative cost savings reached £80million, with the group confirming a goal for the full year of £100million.

Adjusted operating profit fell by 4 per cent on a reported basis but was up 8 per cent at constant currency.

Comparable store sales rose 3 per cent in the first half, as new creative director Riccardo Tisci took the helm.

Strong demand for AstraZenecas new drugs – especially those for cancer – drove a return to sales growth in the third quarter and the FTSE 100 drugmaker said it now anticipated years of sustained improvement. Sales in the three months rose 8 per cent.

“Sainsbury’s has its hands full integrating Argos and planning its next adventure with Asda, but both are going to plan and the underlying business has momentum.

“Total sales grew by 3.5% in the 28 weeks ended 22 September to £16.88 billion and retail sales by 1.2%, or 0.6% on a like-for-like basis excluding fuel. Profit before tax and any nasties was up 20% to £302 million, but the cost of restructuring, integrating Argos and £17 million spent kicking off the planned merger with Asda caused a 40% drop in statutory profit to £132 million.

“A 1.5% increase in sales at Argos and the other general merchandise businesses was better than the wider market, but lower margin consumer technology products crimped returns.

“The idea of opening Argos stores in supermarkets is working well, and Sainsbury’s has hit its £160 million savings target nine months early. Elsewhere, the business should hit its own £200 million savings target by year-end and “at least” £500 million in three years.

“That there’s not much to say on the Asda deal is unsurprising given the ongoing regulatory review.

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