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M&S turnround (finally) shows signs of progress

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M&S is the main event in a busy morning of corporate updates. The retailer recognises that there have been many false dawns. CEO Steve Rowe says “given the history of M&S we’ve been clear that we won’t overclaim our progress”.

But by reporting half-year pre-tax profits of £187m — up from an £88m loss last year — the retailer beat expectations, and forecast full-year profits would be better than expected too at around £500m.

Rowe said that it was “clear that underlying performance is improving”. Food sales were up 10 per cent on two years ago and operating profits (excluding one-off nasties) for the unit were up by around half. In its clothing and home division meanwhile, while sales fell 1 per cent overall, the retailer increased the amount of full price sales by 17 per cent, an indication of a major turnround in performance.

Briefly

Asos is holding a capital markets day today, despite having parted ways with its chief executive only a month ago. The fast-fashion retailer is setting out the detail behind its plan to boost sales and profits. But given the group has a new chair about to start (albeit one who’s been on the board for eight years already) and soon a new CEO, it’s perhaps hard to put too much weight on those plans.

ITV has had “an outstanding nine months”, “by any standards” says boss Carolyn McCall. Indeed as advertising has bounced back, so have ITV’s revenues, up 8 per cent on two years ago.

Sir Martin Sorrell’s digital advertising roll-up S4 Capital said net revenues increased 42 per cent year-on-year in the latest quarter, and 65 per cent compared to two years ago. Sir Martin’s post-WPP project prioritises revenue growth over profitability, for now, investing in picking up and servicing mega-spending clients it dubs “whoppers”. It now has six “whoppers” with 19 more in its sights.

Utility Warehouse will pay a £1.5m penalty to watchdog Ofgem for failings involving customers in debt between 2013 and 2019.

Vodafone is shuffling its subsidiaries, transferring its majority stake in Vodafone Egypt to Vodacom Group Limited, its sub-Saharan African subsidiary. The deal, which involves the issue of new shares by Vodacom, will increase Vodafone’s ownership of Vodacom from 60.5 per cent to 65 per cent.

Motoring and cycling retailer Halfords reported revenues for the first 20 weeks of its financial year up 19 per cent from two years ago (10.5 per cent on last year). But it is battling supply chain challenges in its cycling business, with “considerable capacity constraints” and “low availability of bikes throughout the period”. If you’re an adult after a regular pedal bike, think again.

JD Wetherspoon provides plenty of colour on the nation’s drinking habits in its trading update this morning, with a “considerable increase in sales of the range of drinks often consumed by younger customers” over the past 15 weeks, which include cocktails (up 45 per cent) and rum (up 26 per cent) while traditional ale sales are down 30 per cent and stout sales down 20 per cent. It added that trade in many town and city centres had been positive, with worse performance in the suburbs. Like-for-like sales were 9 per cent lower than two years ago.

Also out today are half-year results from FTSE 100 software group Aveva.

Beyond the Square Mile

Electric truckmaker Rivian has priced its IPO, and as anticipated, it’s going to be a real blockbuster. Rivian priced its shares at $78 each, significantly above expectations, and sold more shares than expected. At that price it will have a market value of $66.5bn or $77bn on a fully diluted basis. At the start of the month it set a $52-$62 price range for its shares. Our US correspondents have more here.

The US Department of Justice is preparing a crackdown on corporate crime, a senior official told the FT, with cases involving “some of the largest corporations” operating in the US set to come within weeks. John Carlin, a senior official at the DoJ told FT correspondent Stefania Palma that one potential target was companies that had violated the terms of deferred prosecution agreements.

And is meme trading finally finished? Shares in Coinbase fell almost 15 per cent yesterday after the crypto exchange reported disappointing revenue for the third quarter and a shrinking number of active users, Hannah Murphy reports from San Francisco. Revenues in the third quarter were $1.3bn, up more than 300 per cent on the same period last year, but less than analyst expectations of $1.58bn. Trading volume fell to $327bn, down 29 per cent compared with the previous quarter.

My colleague Helen Thomas takes on pre-emption rights, which she calls the “untouchable core of London market governance”. Let’s hope she survives the encounter unscathed.

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