Is the £3 billion online grocery/technology stock Ocado (OCDO) to be squeezed even higher as short sellers feel pain? This week has brought news of a second international technology/warehousing deal - with Canada's second-largest retailer after a major French retailer only seven weeks ago. These deals have inflated Ocado shares well over two-thirds in market value, to 525p.
Before the Canadian deal, Ocado was the third-largest short on the London market, with 13.5% of issued shares loaned out, thus now putting hedge funds in a dilemma whether to nurse losses, increase their shorts or close out.
It has wider relevance beyond Ocado, ie how much notice should you take of accumulated short positions and when? The collapse of Carillion (CLLN) is now proclaimed obvious in hindsight, with 14.0% of its equity having been loaned out, making it the second most-shorted stock. Debenhams (DEB) at number one is having a sore time, too, its market value halving in the last six months.
Hard on the heels of Tesco's announcement, here's this from Sainsbury's. I still think that Argos benefit hasn't been fully appreciated by brokers.
"Thousands of shop floor jobs are at risk as part of a major shake-up at Sainsbury's.
The supermarket chain is changing the way it manages its stores across the UK and scrapping some management posts.
Sainsbury's would not confirm the number of employees affected by the move but said it was "in the thousands".
On Monday, the UK's biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, announced it was cutting 1,700 shop floor management jobs.
Like the other major grocers, Sainsbury's is trying to cut costs and simplify its plans to save £500m over the next three years.
Earlier this month, it confirmed it was "on track" to achieve £185m of cost savings this year, putting it ahead of target.
Sainsbury's, which jostles for position as the UK's second-biggest supermarket with Asda, has more than 1,400 stores in the UK.
The posts will be replaced by fewer, but mostly better paid, new management roles in each store.
Employees have the choice of either applying for these new roles or accepting a more junior position if unsuccessful. Otherwise they face redundancy.
Simon Roberts, retail and operations director of Sainsbury's, said: "We're proposing a store management structure that will deliver best in class leadership and, in many cases, will offer an improved reward package for new management roles.
"The proposals will introduce a more efficient and effective structure, designed to meet the challenges of today's retail environment. They will deliver cost savings to be invested in our customer offer and in our colleagues as they continue to provide the very best service for our customers.
"Our intention is not to reduce overall headcount as a result of these proposals.
"I appreciate this will be a difficult time for those affected and we will fully support our people through these changes."
Rival Tesco has said it intends to cut 1,700 jobs from its branches and warehouses as part of its turnaround strategy. However, it also plans to create 900 jobs and said it would try to move staff affected by the cuts into the new roles.
Tesco's UK chief executive Matt Davies said the changes were "necessary to ensure our business remains competitive and set up for the future".
Tesco is aiming to make £1.5bn in cost savings over the three years to 2020.
Philip Dorrell, managing partner at Retail Remedy, said the "ongoing stresses" in the retail sector had been driven by a need to reduce costs in the face of shrinking profit margins.
"They are shrinking as the discounters have fuelled a need to be more competitive on price, at a time when the volumes that the retailers are selling reduce," he added.
Discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl were picking up much of the business lost by the mainstream supermarkets, he added.
As a result, grocers have had to cut costs - and labour is one of their biggest costs. "Therefore, the stage is set and the decline of the grocers' workforce will continue," he said.
The Unite union, which represents more than 12,000 members working for Sainsbury's, said the jobs to be scrapped included team leader/store supervisor roles in all branches. There would also be "major changes" to the department manager and deputy manager structure, it added.
The union said it would seek "guarantees" that there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the restructuring.
"We appreciate that Sainsbury's has a good record of redeployment of staff in these situations and we will be exploring every avenue to ensure the continuing employment for our members," said Unite's Bev Clarkson.
Just briefly, as said, I'm very encouraged by the increase in Argos sales as they bed-in to Sainsbury's supermarkets. It's in line with my own experience - the ease of click n collect - or 'Fast Track', when off shopping at Sainsbury's.
"Slightly puzzled by the General Merchandise fall when Argos is apparently streaking ahead... That said, it appears that shoppers are becoming accustomed to Argos being available in-store..."
Yes, Lupo - it seems likely that comparisons (both over y-o-y and LFL) could be more than usually distorted with the ongoing significant shuffling of the Argos estate (eg. closing previous stores and replacing them with units in the supermarkets).
As such, true underlying comparable performance is pretty hard to identify - that said, it is clear enough that the wider market remains pretty tough, and likely to remain so. What matters most is the overall quantum of profits that SBRY squeezes out of the original Argos+Habitat inheritance - and the message there is pretty encouraging, in an incrementally (though not, of course, massively) positive direction.
"Table at foot of page has beaten me - time for porridge."
If you refer to the annexed table of Total Group Sales - yes, I clocked that. I believe the previous quarterly data are almost all distorted by the addition of Argos etc to the group, hence the big absolute % increases - this is now washing out of the maths, so the most recent quarterly figures revert to a more meaningful steady-state trend.
But yes, if you are going to tack on one table, why that one? And not something actually meaningful ... it will only serve to confuse. It is hardly a seismic issue, of course - but not for the first time, I lament the common sense of the people actually putting these statements together for SBRY.
Nice enough, with more synergies coming through from the Argos acquisition.
Slightly puzzled by the General Merchandise fall when Argos is apparently streaking ahead; maybe SBRY is guilty of talking it up. That said, it appears that shoppers are becoming accustomed to Argos being available in-store, according to sales figures.
This is more a Sainsbury's crawlaround rather than a turnaround story, that's ok.
Table at foot of page has beaten me - time for porridge.
I realise that you are quoting the released update...........b as ever it is very important to note that using % (percentages) to demonstrate growth is wholly misleading as EVERYTHING depends on the base figure on which the % is based. LIDL/ALDI growth figures are indeed great, but comparing them to those of MUCH larger enterprises does not give a true reflection
Yet Tesco's down and Sainsbury's up today; probably due to expectations, or maybe margins.
"LONDON (Alliance News) - The latest UK grocery market share figures published Tuesday by Kantar Worldpanel showed consumers spending GBP1 billion more than last year in the Christmas festive period.
The average household shrugged off economic worries to spend a record GBP1,054 on groceries over the three months including the Christmas period and a record GBP469 million on premium own-label lines in December alone, with chilled items, fresh meat and bakery featuring prominently.
"Overall supermarket sales increased in value by 3.8%. Shoppers parted with GBP747 million on December 22 alone, making the Friday before Christmas the busiest shopping day ever recorded," said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel.
"Mince pie sales rose by 13.2% year on year, washed down with GBP3.9 billion worth of alcohol over the 12 weeks. Alcohol sales grew by 5.1% year on year, with spirits leading the charge: up 7.6% as consumers favoured festive tipples featuring gin and whisky," McKevitt said.
Sales at German retailers Aldi and Lidl grew 17% year-on-year in the 12 week period, with both retailer competing to become the country's fastest growing supermarket chain. This compares to sales growth for the big four UK supermarkets of 3.1% for Tesco PLC, 2.0% for J Sainsbury PLC, 2.1% for WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC, and 2.2% for Asda, part of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Meanwhile, Waitrose recorded growth of 2.3%, Iceland of 2.9% and Ocado Group PLC of 8.4%. Co-op posted a 0.2% drop in sales.
Tesco was the the fastest growing of the big four supermarkets in the 12 week period, helped by a 6.4% increase in sales of standard Tesco own-label.
"With Christmas Day falling on a Monday this year, Tesco Express, like other convenience stores, benefitted from restricted Sunday opening hours for larger supermarkets and were able to capitalise on consumers preferring to shop closer to home immediately before the big day. Despite a successful festive period, Tesco is still growing behind the market with a 0.2 percentage point fall in market share to 28.0%," McKevitt said.
aw steady on there! I am in the blue with this one, and they just paid me a divi today.
Argos might galvanise the bottom line, however Deutsche Bank today reaffirms its hold investment rating on Sainsbury (J) PLC (LON:SBRY) and cut its price target to 260p (from 300p). still a 10% upside there!
As foreshadowed here and all relevant boards... 2018 trading from tomorrow, so time to repeat last year's "virtual portfolio" challenge. Same rules, as per the papers - equal weighted, valid for the whole year with no switching, full owning-up at year end!
Marks & Spencer
I retain a bias toward UK exposure and 'Value' (the two closely related, obviously), with an expectation that the UK domestic outlook will clarify satisfactorily (if not wonderfully) this year. But it's no slam-dunk... and so hedged with a decent slug of overseas earnings and a general focus on "stock specific" stories - with LLOY the only real pure play on 'UK PLC' and associated sentiment. Ultimately, well aware that it's near-impossible to avoid losers as well as winners, I have asked the question - can I see 15% over 2018 (plus divis)? Without necessarily much help from the wider market.
Four stocks stay in from 2017, with CPI, IMB, ITV and SGC still to justify their original inclusion and getting another chance (SGC was a close call). Bonmarche has done its job as "speculative" midcap retail play; VOD still looks fine to me but harder to see sufficient upside in either valuation or financial reporting; CARD and WTB were tougher choices, both still good for the long term IMHO but I see their respective attractions now more finely balanced against likely persisting near-term headwinds.
I will doubtless be elaborating on the case for each of the "new" inclusions in the course of the year. FWIW stocks actively considered but failing to make the cut (as well as CARD and WTB): Braemar and SBRY (from my 2017 Top 10), then Aviva, BT, Debenhams, Gattaca, Merlin, Morrisons, Trinity Mirror.
FYI I own 7 of the 10 stocks, with all of CPI (still!), WPP, GSK under active consideration (probably in that order). I'd be surprised if I didn't buy into at least one in the course of 2018.
That's it for 2017, in market hours anyway, so it is time to tot up the final results for my previously published 2017 Top Ten...
Q1 was not bad (in the end)... Q2 better, outperforming decently... Q3 not so much, a bit of a struggle throughout... and now a reasonable (if selective) Santa rally has delivered (belatedly) a decent enough Q4. It all means a positive absolute return for the year (+1.6%), albeit another good quarter for wider markets means I have underperformed the FTSE 100 by nearly 6% (and around 7% vs FTSE All-Share).
But it's not the full story - I went heavy on income plays, with dividends (including a couple of "specials") delivering a further 5.7%, around 50% more than the UK market yield. So I can point to a total portfolio return of 7.3% for the year - still below the 12% or so returned by the main UK indices, but somewhat nearer respectability - and preserving my status as (distinctly) average fund manager... making you some kind of return on your money, but not actually managing to beat, or even meet, an index.
Star performer, after a pleasing (albeit slightly suspicious) late run, was one of my small-cap speculatives, Bonmarche - up 60% for 2017! Then, at the other end of the size scale, comes Vodafone, an 18% return reflecting a year of solid success... just ahead of Card Factory (up nearly 17% after a rollercoaster ride), although CARD just edges out VOD in total return terms (+26% vs +24%). After that, a good Q4 sees Whitbread end the year up 6%, after 'promising' something much worse for most of it.
But that's it for gains, and 4 "winners" out of 10 doesn't really cut it, I concede. Both Sainsbury and Braemar ended near enough where they started (down just under 3%), but thereafter the disappointments pile up like roadkill... Imperial Brands falling 11%, ITV losing 20%, Stagecoach giving up 24% and Capita's year of woe and warnings means it brings up the rear, some 25% down - with some small solace that it's the only one I still don't own for real (but watch this space!)
How to rationalise this performance picture? Well, looking back at my original post, it seems I predicted it up-front a year ago - I quote... "a vague attempt at balance and diversification across the list, though it's probably still a bit too exposed to the UK economy - and hence any further Brexit downturn. Probably inevitable, given my usual bias towards 'value' and aversion to buying into momentum."
The hope was that the Brexit 'deal', and consequent UK economic outlook, would clarify - while there's finally some sign of that now, for most of the year it's remained mired in the mud of uncertainty and ungentlemanly exchange. There is the (related) theme of Value staying out of favour - albeit with 'green shoots' starting to appear just as the snow comes tumbling - and getting ever cheaper over the year as the market found reassurance in "reassuringly expensive" havens of Quality and Momentum.
So what for 2018? "Double-down" on the combo of cheap UK and underappreciated Value, in the expectation (or 'hope'?) that "this time NEXT year, Rodney".... or capitulate and jump on the market bandwagon, trusting the wheels stay on for another 12 months? Anyone following my thoughts for any length of time will know the answer ... but either way, all will be formally revealed in due course with my Top Ten for 2018 - as I always promised, and likewise enourage others to participate.
FWIW my 'real' portfolio fared better in 2017, up c.11.5% (total return c.15%). Nicely outperforming the FTSE 100 (+7.6%) and All-Share (+9.0%) in both price terms and their total returns of c.12-13%, though lagging the Global Market return of 20%. Given I've owned 9 of my Top 10 stocks for most of 2017 and I didn't set out to pick bad stocks, you can deduce much of my performance came from unexpected quarters - a good advert for diversification, of one's own thought processes and investment instincts as much as sectors and stocks!
Talking of declining standards: I went to sea in 1961, language was pretty ripe on board, but when jolly jack went ashore, usually at night, they'd dress in suit and tie and not a swear word to be heard.
Popped into Sainsbury's this PM for a spot of shopping and to pick up an Argos item - staff courteous, pleasant and helpful.
agree about standards totally. Here in Waitrose there has been a steady decline in these due to many so called cost savings. Also retail is a different beast these days. Im an old fashioned trader, not many of me left and find it so frustrating not to achieve what lI would have accepted even only 5 years ago. The first thing I learnt from my old store manager when only a boy was "Retail is detail". I have never forgotten this. I never walk by a piece of paper on the floor or a wonky barker card. Hate it. Still have a toothbrush in my pocket to clean those areas you cant get to.
Unfortunately todays mentality excepts short of perfect as traders are a rare breed. they except the unexceptable.
If I could, I would give you a hundred 'vote-ups' for that post.
Oh, I especially agree with ' a reflection of the direction of travel in society in general...more acceptance of looser standards.' - I have been saying that for a long time.
When people criticise others in the public eye, police, politicians, military, people in the health service etc. they don't stop to think that they are all individuals, drawn from the same society as themselves. From a society of people that e.g. are increasingly accepting of, and pushing for the legalisation of 'soft drugs', that laugh at humour that would have been considered immoral or disgusting decades ago, and many that have dress standards that leave a lot to be desired - e.g. flashing the flesh in public, and don't consider that it should have any effect on others.
A few years ago, I had an abdominal operation where my bladder was cut open accidentally. I have often wondered if the surgeon had been on anything the night before. We also sometimes hear of flights being cancelled due to cockpit crew not being in a fit state to fly.
Such is the society that we now live in - the 'behaviours and standards' that you refer to. Even you would probably not agree with me on this, but I think that Mary Whitehouse was right all those years ago.
I see (despite the oft reported cases of corruption in China - Hey it doesn't exist anywhere else), much greater value placed on virtue and respect and high morals in much of Asia - classes of which are enshrined in the Chinese education syllabus, than the value attached to such in the West. All IMHO
"A bit like some of the posts that I read on hear, where there seems to be a concept that if you wish for something to happen then it will happen - la la land. IMHO"
Oh how I agree !!!
And when that is combined with "facts" thats are patently not accurate it becomes even more frustrating.
Everyone is entitled to opinions and they sometimes get them right, sometimes not. 2 recent personal examples not linked to SBRYs...I thought ACRL was a good long term hold because of its market in paper products and started building a small position. As a result of company being "economical with the facts" in the eyes of many holders, the value fell by over 2/3. I was wrong. BOO is another example where this time I felt it was overvalued, discretionary spending would fall etc and suggested that it would fall, perhaps even to ludicrous levels of 170p....where it has been until the last day or two. One opinion correct, one incorrect. In each case I posted what I believed were my balanced opinions with reasons and most others could see the logic to a greater or lesser extent and sometimes we humorously agreed to disagree...
Just because some people quote FACTS doesn't mean they are true, they need to learn the distinction between a FACT and opinion. This is one thing that really gets my goat as someone who was scientifically trained. If it is a fact then it MUST be justifiable by evidence....filed company accounts or something that anyone can see from visiting ANY or ALL outlets. It is a shame that the "standing" of some posters is detracted from as a result of the conversion of opinion to fact....and as a result there may be less inclination to recognise their more salient posts. There is hardly anyone who posts who does not have something useful to contribute.
Perhaps as the year draws to a close we could all (and yes, that includes me) consider thinking about how we phrase facts and opinions and let the rationale of our thought process rather than our desires give weight to our POV?
p.s. ....unfortunately I suspect that the behaviours and standards you experienced in your SBRYs visits were also a reflection of the direction of travel in society in general...more acceptance of looser standards. One old Boots manager said "never walk PAST a problem" and the old nugget "the difference is in the detail".....how true.
Back in the UK for a couple of weeks and have been to Sainsbury's a few times. They seem to be getting a bit busier, but if they don't when running up to Christmas when will they?
I went in today and on the fridges they there was a ticket rail hanging off of a couple of shelves, just as they were 2 days ago - poor management!
Also when I visited a couple of days ago, I bought some individual oranges - they were rung through the till as onions! would you believe. I pointed it out to the till operator after checking my receipt, and she told me to see customer services - Nobody on customer services! So the girl who was watching over the self-serve tills adjacent, called someone who was, I would guess a customer service staffer who came over and then told me, he would put a note through the tills and I could keep the oranges for that price for my honesty - unbelievable total experience.
Re. Argos - All retail businesses are suffering from the competition of online business, particularly from Amazon - yes I know you all know that, but I have some little doubts beginning to creep in. We have seen what happened with Sainsbury and Netto. Sainsbury's heart wasn't in it, otherwise they would have been more persistent in promoting the Netto business - It didn't fit in with there culture, despite being a good idea and the only chance to take the discounters on, head-on at their own game.
When I consider Sainsbury and Argos, I see a relative situation. There was talk of providing competition for Amazon, but if that is going to succeed they need to take them on head-on. It is a big challenge and I cannot see it happening. Amazon started out selling books and many people still go to them for books. Perhaps e.g. the first step Sainsbury should take is to compete with Amazon on books with wide advertising to that end. I think the will to fight Amazon is not there, in a similar way that the will to push the Netto business is not there. It is OK coming up with bright ideas about what you want to do, or what you need to do, but the will for the application has to be there. If a business is not going forwards, then it is going backwards, it is not possible to just stand still. It seems that they just want Argos to carry on and have savings through transferring some Argos into Sainsury branches.
Much as I like or maybe have liked, Sainsbury as a top retailer (having trained under an ex-Sainsbury manager over 50 years ago, and learning about their standards), I am getting concerned about where they are now heading for. Despite their efforts, they don't seem to recognise all the changes that are taking place in the retail world. A bit like some of the posts that I read on hear, where there seems to be a concept that if you wish for something to happen then it will happen - la la land. IMHO
I was being charitable re Argos. Yes, I do think it's a great addition from SBRYs point of view (especially if you CAN pick up in store - I couldn't 2 weeks ago in my local). However, and it is a big however, in general anything tech and it is one of the two most expensive options - Dixons / Curry's / Carphone, or whatever it decides to call itself being the other. Probably quite good for toys and maybe homewares (neither of which I would use it for).
So when I said a handful of times in a year, that was averaging out as 2 weeks ago was the first time I used them in about 2 years. We have a range of store options reasonably close by so Argos has to earn its trade, and unfortunately doesn't cut it with me, whether it's owned by SBRYs or not.....(and Amazon doesn't get much more business)
As I said, good from SBRYs point of view to keep things ticking over until things stabilise / improve for them in the grocery side.
PE - "Unfortunately most people only need Argos a handful of times per year.....they need to shop for food weekly - herein lies the problem."
Or not a problem. It's gradually dawned on me n the missus that Argos is really handy. We no longer have to divert to a not-so-local Argos, but can pick-up Argos stuff dead easy at Sainsbury's. As I mentioned earlier, I visit Amazon less frequently because of that. Maybe Amazon might bid for Sainsbury's - lol. (Thought I'd better add the "lol").
SBRY was on the slide and Argos in the ascendancy. The hope was that Argos would help keep SBRY out of the mire until it could get it's house in order for the next cycle of profitability increases when the economy picks up. As such it was, as many said at the time, a good deal for SBRY.
Unfortunately most people only need Argos a handful of times per year.....they need to shop for food weekly - herein lies the problem.
The only good thing about the ad is that I now know when to go and put the kettle on!
Quite possibly the worst and least inspiring ad I have seen in 4-5 years. Just compare with (admittedly non-christmas) Warburtons ad with Peter Kay, or even that of M&S which is mundane compared to last year.
So.....with the discounters doing well, inflation up again and disposable income being squeezed ( due to increased pressure to raise rates and less spare cash in pay ), does anyone really see this as a raging buy yet, apart from turkey10?
I am SO glad I sold out earlier this year, just wish I had done it sooner. Keeping an eye on it as SBRYs and the opinions on here serve as a bit of a bellwether
"The big four put in a respectable performance, with sales up 1.9 per cent - the ninth consecutive period of growth.
Tesco was the fastest growing of the gang, with sales up 2.5 per cent, although this was not enough to stop further erosion of its market share to 28.2 per cent. Sainsbury's grew sales two per cent, with its market share falling to 16.3 per cent, while Morrisons' 1.4 per cent failed to stop its decline to 10.6 per cent. Sales at Asda were up 1.2 per cent, but its market share also fell."
Similar thing in my local ASDA. A ticket machine is just inside the main door adjacent the toilets (smells of IZAL) This gives you a number based on a QR on email on my phone. There's a 3-seater metal bench and enough space for say two shopping trolley's. Surprising how busy the loo's are, and disappointing how everyone is in another's way. A wait of about 3 minutes, produced a lady with my goods (in a sealed bag). I then had to produce ID before she'd hand over the goods. So similar to Argos at Sainsbury by the sound of it.
My brother has lived in Stanway for thirty years. The weekly trip to SBRY was a ritual for him and the thousands of other middle class commuters who lived around him. I was back visiting two years ago. He now does 80% of his shopping at Aldi, which is located ten minutes away on the London road. I am personally unimpressed with the offerings of the discounters, and was surprised by the brother's shift of allegiance.
I think SBRY is still underpriced here, and agree with you about the nature of the business. But the struggle will be hard and uphill.
Important message from the Financial Conduct Authority:
Posting inside information that is not public knowledge, or information that is false or misleading, may constitute market abuse.
This could lead to an unlimited fine and up to seven years in prison.
If you have any information, concerns or queries about market abuse, click here.
The content of the messages posted represents the opinions of the author, and does not represent the opinions of Interactive Investor Trading Limited or its affiliates and has not been approved or issued by Interactive Investor Trading Limited.
You should be aware that the other participants of the above discussion group are strangers to you and may make statements which may be misleading, deceptive or wrong.
Please remember that the value of investments or income from them may go down as well as up and that the past performance of an investment is not a guide to its performance in the future.
The discussion boards on this site are intended to be an information sharing forum and is not intended to address your particular requirements.
Whilst information provided on them can help with your investment research you need to consider carefully whether you should make (or refraining from making) investment or other decisions based on what you see without doing further research on investments you are interested in.
Participating in this forum cannot be a substitute for obtaining advice from an appropriate expert independent adviser who takes into account your circumstances and specific investment needs in selected investments that are appropriate for you.