Langton Capital – 2016-04-11 – Eclectic, big ticket spending, GBK, Premier Foods & other:
A Day in the Life:
So this might have to be brief as Microsoft upgraded us over the weekend to Windows 10 and everything looks different.
Which is a problem and, as the upgrade comes from left field after Langton studiously hit the ‘do not upgrade’ button perhaps 100 times over the last six months, we’re a little annoyed by it.
Sure, MS did put something on our screens about ‘your upgrade has been scheduled for Sunday 10 April’ but, having hit the ‘clear off’ button, we thought we’d kicked that one into the long grass too but, apparently, we hadn’t.
However, apart from something called Cortana trying to communicate with us every few minutes to ‘enhance our experience’, it’s working OK so far. Fingers crossed as, with many of these things, it’s worth waiting as long as possible in order that the manufacturer gets the bugs sorted out. On to the news:
PUB, RESTAURANT & DRINKS PRODUCER NEWS:
• Eclectic announces placing was successful, 17.3m shares (15.5m new, 1.9m foe outgoing director) placed at 55p per share for £9.5m
• Outgoing CEO of Eclectic Bars Reuben Harley has cut his holding in the company by 92% to 153k shares
• Eclectic move suggests that the company will not be what it was. Nightclubs a lesser part of the business going forward.
• Big ticket spending relatively healthy. Cars, furniture. Small ticket items yet to show major pickup.
• Consumer confidence in the real world. Counter-intuitive but are big ticket items seen as one-offs but small ticket as ‘life-changing’ and therefore harder to give up? This would fit in with the theory that consumers have not picket up their spending on ‘affordable treats’ as to give them up again would be rather depressing. A car purchase or a sideboard, on the other hand, can be seen as a one-off. If it turns out money gets tighter, then it won’t be repeated every week.
• Enterprise Inns has announced that it has purchased 78,803 of its own shares for cancellation at prices between 97.75p and 100.5p
• Sales of Italian wine have been boosted by strengthening exports, growing demand for sparkling wines, and a strong domestic market. Research from Mediobanca found the net worth of the 87 limited Italian wine-makers covered amounted to some €2.4 billion, making for a collective market cap of €3.3bn based on the multiples of publicly listed peers.
• Nando’s owner Capricorn Ventures has appointed advisors to explore options for Gourmet Burger Kitchen with a view to selling in the summer, writes MCA. Rothschild is believed to have been appointed to advise on the options available for the 72-strong business, which is currently valued at c£90m. Capricorn acquired Clapham House, parent company of GBK, in 2010 for £30.4m.
• Young’s is to open its first standalone Burger Shack & Bar at the end of the month, at the former Five Stables in Wimbledon, per MCA.
• Almost a third of UK diners (28%) like to order completely off-menu at a restaurant, known as ‘menu hacking’, according to booking service OpenTable. Consumer demand for a more tailored experience has seen a rise in menu customisation, with over half (56%) the UK adapting a dish on a restaurant menu to suit their taste.
• MCA’s Tenant Track survey shows the relationship between pubcos and tenants continues to improve despite uncertainty around upcoming legislation. The average pubco rating improved 4.8% in the survey to 7.02 out of 10, with 84% of tenants considering their pub company’s code of practice to be fair.
• Tim Martin has said that JD Wetherspoon could grow to 1,500 sites from its current 955, but is now more likely to peak at 1,000 to 1,200.
• Best-selling Portuguese beer brand Super Bock is sizing up a UK roll out and will introduce its award-winning 5% abv Super Bock Original first.
• Starbucks is set to launch its Teavana brand in the UK this year in conjunction with a range of shaken iced teas nationwide this summer. The teahouse concept is also set to be introduced across the Middle East and Africa, after seeing success in the US and Canada. Charlotta Oldham, Starbucks tea category manager EMEA, said of the roll out: ‘Our mission is to create a modern day tea culture with the highest quality, most innovative tea products and experiences that we hope our customers will enjoy.’
• Caffe Nero has told its staff that they are no longer entitled to a free lunch because of the cost of implementing the National Living Wage.
• UKIP leader Nigel Farage has promised to repeal the smoking ban in pubs and raise the drink-driving limit in Scotland in the party’s ‘Shake Up Holyrood’ manifesto.
• Premier Foods. No comment from McCormick over the weekend. US co has till 20 April to PU or SU
• Hull pork co Cranswick has announced that it has purchased Crown Chicken for £40m. A further move into alternative proteins. CWK says ‘Crown is a leading integrated poultry producer based in East Anglia. It breeds, rears and processes fresh chicken for supply into a broad customer base across grocery retail, food service, wholesale and manufacturing channels.’ CWK says “Crown is a well-respected operator in the UK poultry sector and represents an excellent opportunity for Cranswick to continue the development of its UK poultry business, building on the highly successful acquisition of Benson Park, the market leading producer of premium cooked poultry, in October 2014. This acquisition represents important progress in our long term growth strategy of developing new product channels in both pork and other proteins.’
• The American owner of the Ambassador Theatres empire is planning a takeover of Pinewood Studios.
• The Daily Mail and General Trust is weighing up a bid for struggling US internet company Yahoo although discussions are ‘at a very early stage’. Starboard Value, the activist investor, has recently called for the replacement of the entire board at the loss-making Yahoo.
• Both Marriott International’s and Starwood Hotels’ stakeholders have approved proposals regarding Marriott’s potential takeover. Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s president and chief executive officer, said, ‘With today’s successful stockholder approval milestone, we are that much closer to completing our transaction. Our teams continue to plan the integration of our two companies, and we are committed to a timely and smooth transition. We appreciate the stockholders’ vote of confidence in our ability to drive long-term value and opportunity as a combined company.’
• European beach resort prices have been tempered by the weaker pound, according to Post Office Travel Money’s latest Holiday Costs Barometer. Local prices for meals, drinks and other tourist staples have been cut or pegged to cushion the blow, with the greatest falls in Cyprus, Croatia, the Algarve, Bulgaria and Turkey.
FINANCE & MARKETS:
• Economic growth in the UK is set to soften further, with confidence and investment ‘at a low ebb’, according to the British Chambers of Commerce. Official figures show that industrial output fell 0.5% in February year-on-year, marking the sharpest decline since August 2013, as ‘global and domestic uncertainties’ continue to weigh on the outlook. The survey of more than 8,500 firms showed historically low confidence in turnover and profitability.
• The IEA has reiterated its view that leaving the EU could increase Britain’s national output by 13%
• UK industrial production fell 0.5% in February from a year ago, the largest decline since August 2013.
• ONS shows manufacturing down 1.1% in Feb from Jan and down by 1.8% on a year
• UK trade deficit in Feb worse than expected. NIESR says ‘the subdued growth in the first quarter of 2016 has been primarily driven by weakness in production industries, especially manufacturing.’ It adds ‘the volume of industrial production is currently 10.7% below its pre-recession peak of the first quarter of 2008, while GDP has now surpassed its pre-recession peak by 7%.’
• IMF says a move to negative rates globally would help liquidity and ease lending conditions. It says ‘we tentatively conclude that overall, they help deliver additional monetary stimulus and easier financial conditions, which support demand and price stability.’
• World markets: UK and Europe up on Friday, US also higher. Far East mostly lower in Monday trading
• Oil price sharply higher over the weekend at around $42.10 per barrel
Retail Roundup from Nick Bubb:
Bonmarche: An unexpectedly cautious pre-close update from Bonmarche on Friday morning hot the shares hard, even though it said that LFL sales still rose by 0.4% in the 13 weeks to March 26th. Back in December it warned that PBT would be between £10.5m and £12m and Bonmarche now says its full-year profit will be at the “lower end” of that range. The soon-to-be-departed CEO Beth Butterwick said: “Post-Christmas, trading conditions have continued to be quite challenging, with the exception of January where we saw a higher than average demand for autumn/winter sale stock. Although helpful in clearing these ranges, the continued colder weather has been unhelpful in kick-starting real demand for spring products”.
Saturday Press: The main focus in the Saturday papers was on the Bonmarche profit warning, but the lead story in the Times stockmarket report (“Shares fall off the sofa as buyers turn sellers”) was the news that the private equity fund Advent International has agreed to sell a 14.1% stake in DFS Furniture at 300p for £90m (leaving it with just a 24.1% stake in DFS). The Times also flagged that the broker Canaccord had upgraded M&S to “Buy”, whilst the FT market report noted that the broker Berenberg had downgraded SuperGroup because of worries about its distribution logistics programme. Finally, the FT flagged that the well regarded Stuart Machin has taken the honourable step of resigning his job as the MD of Target Australia, because of an accounting investigation by owner Wesfarmers.
Sunday Press: The Sunday papers were full of bullish previews of the Tesco finals this week, but the Sunday Times had a couple of other intriguing stories: Mark Newton-Jones, the CEO of Mothercare, has emerged as a contender to be the next CEO of Debenhams (along with Mike Shearwood, former boss of Karen Millen, and Stuart Machin, former boss of Target Australia) and the convicted fraudster who bought BHS, Dominic Chappell, is also an investor in “a secret company in Panama”. The Sunday Times’ “Inside the City” column also advised readers to sell Burberry and had an interview with John Browett, the CEO of Dunelm.
Today’s Press and News: The front page headline in the FT is “Fears grow over effect of negative rates on economy”, with the head of BlackRock warning over the effect on savings and the IMF cautioning about the impact on cash hoarding, whilst there are plenty of previews of the Tesco finals and the other results this week.
Grocer Watch: The widely followed Grocer “33” weekly supermarket pricing survey in Saturday’s magazine was won again by Asda, but it was one of the most competitive weeks of late : the £60.70 Asda basket was only £5.37 cheaper than 5th placed Waitrose (which was boosted by a half-price £3.50 deal on Ariel washing capsules). The separate Grocer “Mystery Shopper” weekly survey on Store Service and Availability was won by Tesco, as its 60,000 sq ft superstore in Toxteth, Liverpool, topped the rankings, with an impressive score of 86 out of 100.
Clas Ohlson Watch:
News This Next Week: The pace of news picks up this week. Tomorrow brings the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales for March first thing, plus the ASOS interims and the ScS interims. Wednesday then brings us the Tesco finals, the Halfords Q3 and the WH Smith interims. Then on Thursday we get the Debenhams interims, the JD Sports finals, the Burberry Q4, the Poundland Q4 and the Mothercare Q4. Nick Bubb – email@example.com