WH Smith is a travel junkie and Ted Baker looks to move on

Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 10:00

“The FTSE 100 fell back as several stocks traded ex-dividend and after sterling largely shrugged off the Brexit extension agreed by the EU overnight.

“A new Halloween deadline likely seen as can kicking rather than really providing space for a coherent Brexit strategy to emerge.

“Airline shares traded higher on relief that at least a no-deal exit tomorrow has been averted,” says Russ Mould, Investment Director at AJ Bell.

WH Smith

“Retailer WH Smith must now be fonder of travel than Phileas Fogg of Around the World in 80 Days fame.

“Once again, first half results show its moribund high street business being rescued by the part of the business which serves airports, motorway service stations and train stations.

“Almost more important than the robust performance from this latter part of the business in the first six months of its financial year is the promise of a better-than-expected showing from it in the second half.

“And while at a headline level the cost of acquiring US airport retailer InMotion may have hit profit, it is looking a sound strategic move and the integration of the business is progressing at pace.

“Retail outlets in railways stations and airports often do well as they serve a time-poor, captive audience who often have no alternative other than to pay higher prices.

“That the non-travel shops are in managed decline is reflected by a modest drop in profit and sales actually representing its best showing for several years.

“And while the stores might not win any prizes for shopper experience, they do generate plenty of cash which helps underpin the company’s generous dividend policy and the £25m buyback announced today.”

Ted Baker

“If British brand Ted Baker was really looking for a fresh start after the harassment allegations against its founder and erstwhile chief executive Ray Kelvin you could question why it has made an internal appointment as his replacement.

“Take nothing away from Lindsay Page, who has been finance director at the business since 1997 and has been serving as acting CEO since Kelvin’s departure.

“However, investors could have been forgiven for expecting an outsider to come in and draw a line under the company’s recent troubles, with a probe into the Kelvin episode finding ‘areas for improvement’ in the firm’s HR practices.

“Perhaps a clean break with the past was more difficult in a business which counted among its strengths a highly individual culture and identity.

“The kind of resurrection recently enjoyed by Julian Dunkerton at Superdry looks unlikely for Kelvin given the cloud under which he departed.

“This at least provides Page with some breathing space to repair a damaged brand, but it will not be an easy task, particularly in an uncertain consumer environment.”

These articles are for information purposes only and are not a personal recommendation or advice.

The daily market update is written by Russ Mould, AJ Bell’s Investment Director and his team. The article highlights the movement in the main index, winners and losers on the day and any macro-economic announcements.