M&S beats forecasts | ITV flat | Wetherspoon up
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer has reinstated its dividend and delivered a 56.2% rise in first-half profits, but cautioned about future trading conditions.
The company posted pre-tax profits of £325.6m in the six months to 30 September, compared with £208m a year ago. Revenue rose 10.8% to £6.1bn, driven by a 14.7% rise in food sales.
“Trading momentum has been maintained through October and we are planning for a good Christmas, with customers already responding positively to our ranges,” it said.
“However, as we enter 2024, we are not relying on the favourable recent market conditions persisting.”
The board has reinstated its dividend with a 1p a share payout.
Shares in the company rose 19p, or 8.4% to 244.25p at the close.
Zoe Gillespie, investment manager at RBC Brewin Dolphin, said: “M&S’s results have provided some pre-festive period sparkle, albeit with the caveat of an uncertain consumer backdrop next year.
“Sales have risen more or less across the board, profits have surged, and its balance sheet has strengthened – shareholders will also benefit from the restoration of a modest dividend after four years without one.
“Through a range of self-help measures, M&S is in a much better position than it was only a couple of years ago.
“The shares reflect that and are up around 125% since October 2022, but if M&S can keep its current momentum going there may still be room for growth. Whether consumer spending will remain as robust as it has been is outside of the company’s control, but it is taking the right steps to mitigate against any oncoming challenges.”
Pubs group JD Wetherspoon reported a rise in first-quarter sales, helped by easing costs and steady demand.
The group, which owns and operates 816 pubs across the UK and Ireland, said it would invest about £70m in its estate this year.
Like-for-like sales rose 9.5% in the 14 weeks ended 5 November, while total sales were up 8.1% so far this year.
“Inflationary pressures have eased, but energy costs, in particular, remain at far higher levels than pre-pandemic, putting pressure on suppliers and the wider economy,” said chairman Tim Martin.
ITV said growth in ITV Studios and Media & Entertainment (M&E) helped offset a decline in advertising revenue which fell in the third quarter and is set to drop even further by the end of the year.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: ”ITV continues to make good strategic progress despite the challenging macro environment which is impacting the advertising market and also the demand for content from free-to-air broadcasters in the UK and internationally.”
The broadcaster said in the nine months to 30 September total revenue rose 1% at £2.98 billion from £2.95bn the previous year. ITV Studios revenue rose 9% while M&E revenue was down 7%.
Digital advertising revenue remained strong, up 25% at £283 million, ITV said. ITVX saw total digital revenue up 23% and total streaming hours up 27%, with monthly active users continuing to grow in line with the firm’s expectations.
The company said it continues to review its cost base, in addition to the current £50 million target to 2026.
Investors were encouraged to support aero engine maker Rolls-Royce in a note from Morgan Stanley analysts who upgraded their recommendation to “overweight”.
They said the scope for cash generation was “underestimated and mispriced” and the shares, which have more than doubled in value in the past year, rose 6.5p, or 2.8%, to 232.5p.
The blue chip FTSE 100 index closed 8.32 points, or 0.1%, lower at 7,401.72.