M&S cancels trading update at this week's AGM
Anyone hoping for a trading update from M&S this week has had their hopes dashed with news that the under-pressure chain won’t be giving out the current-trading details that we’ve become accustomed to at its annual general meeting.
It will be the first AGM under chairman Archie Norman, who is one of the key figures brought in to help drive a turnaround at the business.
So why the strategy shift? Reports suggested it’s part of Norman’s plan that the company should take a more long-term view of its trading.
A number of executives at retail businesses have complained that trying to operate in the full glare of being a listed company means their firms’ share prices are too often subject to knee-jerk reactions on the part of investors because of a set of figures that may not be representative of progress as a whole.
Arcadia boss Philip Green has previously said as much, with the entrepreneur preferring to operate within a privately-held company that allows him to focus on long-term strategic decision-making.
UK-listed companies are not obliged under stock market rules to issue updates as often as they do, although many of them have no plans to change the habit.
The cancellation of the M&S update also reflects a trend in the US where retail companies don’t report when not obliged to. A decade ago, it was quite common for most listed retailers to issue monthly updates, although few now do that.
Clive Black, retail analyst at Shore Capital, was quoted as saying that it was “relatively unusual” for a UK company not to update on trading at its AGM, but as M&S is “in a multi-year change programme with a new management team, clearly that team wants the space to implement its plans with reduced stock market distraction.”
If the board believed it wouldn’t meet its profit targets for the year, it would be obliged to issue an update, so there’s likely to be no bad news lurking behind the decision. Although analysts also said that if the firm had good news, it would probably have wanted to share that.
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