Market report

John Lewis showdown | US inflation | Wetherspoon


John Lewis store in St James

The boss of John Lewis has said the company will always be owned by its staff, “no ifs, no buts” as employees backed her in a vote of confidence.

Chairman Dame Sharon White ruled out selling a stake in the business, but said the board could consider external investment in future if it was needed.

Dame Sharon recently announced that up to £2 billion is needed to help secure the future of the Partnership after reporting big losses from its chain of department stores and Waitrose supermarkets.

She gave an update to the 61 members of the John Lewis Partnership council, a governing body made up of shop floor staff elected by the workers.

Key figures in retail including Mary Portas and former John Lewis managing director Andy Street have urged caution over diluting the ownership model.

5pm: US inflation falls

US inflation fell last month to its lowest rate in two years. It was 4.9% in the 12 months to April, official figures show.

That was down from 5% in March, and marks the tenth month in a row that price rises have slowed.

The FTSE 100 fell 32 points to 7,732.09 at the close of the London market.

8.15am: Scottish housing market holds up

The Scottish housing market has held up relatively well in the face of economic headwinds, according to Rettie.

Q1 2023 figures, charting the first three months of the year, reveal that year-on-year house prices increased by 3.8% while the overall number of transactions was down by 11%. 

Overall turnover on the value of property sold across Scotland dropped to £4.1 billion (Q1 2022: £4.4B), with total number of transactions down to 19,124 (Q1 2022: 21,496).  

The figures suggest prices rising faster than the UK average revealed by Halifax yesterday which pointed to sluggish growth.

7.40am: VC investment falls

The value of and volume of venture capital (VC) investment into Scottish businesses slumped in the opening quarter of 2023, as economic conditions started to make investors more cautious about investments north of the border, according to the latest figures from KPMG UK.

Scottish scaleups saw 14 deals completed in the first three months of this year, raising around £70 million – the lowest raised by Scottish businesses in the opening quarter of a year since 2020.

Eight deals involved Edinburgh businesses, with six involving Glasgow based firms according to KPMG’s latest Venture Pulse Report.

7am: Wetherspoon

JD Wetherspoon

Pubs group JD Wetherspoon said sales in Easter week were the highest-ever for the company – and sales in the current financial year are likely to be a record.

The last two weeks have included bank holiday weekends. The first weekend, a May bank holiday, was exceptionally strong, including the firm’s busiest-ever Saturday.

But the Coronation didn’t benefit the company in the same way, with a noticeably quiet Saturday, possibly benefitting sales in the off-trade (mainly supermarkets) more than the on-trade (mainly pubs, clubs and restaurants).

In a third quarter trading update the company said like-for-like sales increased by 9.1% in the 13 weeks to 30 April, compared to the same period in 2019, the last full financial year before the pandemic. Year-to-date (YTD) sales increased by 6.4% compared to the same year.

Compared to FY22, like-for-like sales increased by 12.2% in the third quarter and by 12.7% YTD.

7am: National Express becomes Mobico

National Express is changing its holding company name to Mobico Group from early June.

Full story here

7am: ASOS swings to loss


ASOS, the online fashion retailer, swung to a first half loss, but said it was confident of a return to profit in the second half.

The group, which announced a major restructuring last October, posted an adjusted loss before tax of £87.4 million in the six months to 28 February against a profit of £14.8m in the same period last year.

Revenue fell 10% to £1.84bn on a constant currency basis.

“We are improving our gross margin run rate in the face of significant headwinds, are starting to see the benefits of a repositioned stock profile, and are taking action to reduce the proportion of our sales which are not profitable,” said chief executive José Antonio Ramos Calamonte.

“Initiatives are in place to drive a further £200m of benefit in the second half and I am very confident of our return to sustainable profit and cash generation in the second half of the year and beyond.”

ASOS forecast a “low double-digit” decline in second half sales but core earnings of £40-60m, reflecting its focus on profitable sales, assuming there was no improvement to the trading environment.

Global markets

Wall Street closed in negative territory as investors took profits before important economic data releases on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.17%, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.46% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was down by 0.63%.

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