AB Foods has pulled its interim dividend as it reported a fall in H1 profits owing to the ongoing covid-19 crisis.
Prior to the coronvirus outbreak, the Primark part of the business had been performing well, with an improving market share in the UK and solid performance in other parts of Europe.
Primark usually brings in £650 million a month, this revenue has literally evaporated as the stores closed their doors and in today’s climate it is impossible to gauge when those doors may reopen again. Some European stores could open soon. However, even when they do start welcoming customers again, strict social distancing rules are likely to continue for the foreseeable future meaning that revenue and profits from Primark are likely to be significantly reduced for some time.
Taking into account the governments furlough scheme and the rates relief programme the cost of Primark stores standing idle is around £100 million per month. Statutory profits were also hit by a £284 million charge from Primark inventory as the inbound supply chains continued for a few weeks with stock in transit.
The grocery business
On the other side of the business, the Grocery business, which contributes around 28% to profits, has been holding up well. The area has been benefiting from panic buying and stock piling seen in many countries ahead of the covid-19 lock down. The sugar component is less important to the business, making up just 2% of profits.
Liquidity isn’t expected to be a problem for the group which has £1.5 billion on 21st April, thanks to cash, a fully drawn bank facility and access to the British governments covid-19 corporate financing scheme. Even so the board has decided to hold fir on the interim dividend, hardly a surprising move in the circumstances.
Levels to watch
The share price has dropped 30% since the start of the year, faring worse than the FTSE which is down 24%.
AB Foods continues its recovery from the March 19th low, however after losing 6.6% in trading today, the price is getting dangerously close to the ascending trend line support. A break below 1830p (trend line) could see more bears jump in.
Immediate support can be seen at 1843p (today’s low) prior to 1830p and 1677p.
Resistance can be seen at 2050p (high 17th April) and 2141p (high 10th March)
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