Company News

Audit Market Shake-Up, Ocado on TV, and Judges Scientific Presentation

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have issued their final recommendations to improve competition in the audit market after an earlier public consultation. This follows widespread concerns over the dominance of the big four audit firms, the lack of apparent competition on price or quality, and repeated complaints about the quality of audits following several big and small company failures. Audit firms seem to have got off relatively lightly if the CMA’s recommendations are implemented by the Government. Here’s a brief ...

Debenhams PrePack, Dunelm Trading, ASOS and Privacy

Department store operator Debenhams (DEB) has been put through a pre-pack administration. It’s been bought by a new company formed by its secured lenders. Mike Ashley of Sports Direct is furious. His company invested £150 million in the shares of the company in the hope of taking it over, which will now be worthless. He had some choice words to say on the subject which included that it was an “underhand plan to steal from shareholders”, “as normal politicians and regulators ...

Brands Have Limits – Saga and AA

I have written before about the merits of strong brands. This is a paragraph from my new book soon to be published (entitled “Business Perspective Investing”): “Trade marks help customers to identify with the product, and make it easier for them to select the product on a new purchase. Brands are particularly effective when there is actually little difference between competitors’ products - for example, lager beer, gin or washing powder. Brands are exceedingly valuable if well maintained. Coca-Cola is a ...

All Change at Superdry and Intercede – Perhaps

Readers are probably aware that founder Julian Dunkerton managed to win the votes yesterday (2nd April) at the EGM that he requisitioned at Superdry (SDRY). The votes to appoint him and Peter Williams were won by the narrowest of margins despite proxy advisors such as ISS recommending opposition. My previous comments on events at Superdry are here: https://www.sharesoc.org/blog/company-news/superdry-does-it-need-a-revolution/ . It did not seem clear cut to me how shareholders should vote, but I did suggest there was a need for change. There ...

Argo Blockchain and FT Letter

An announcement appeared this morning from Argo Blockchain Plc (ARB). It was well timed as I was going to write something on the hype surrounding blockchain technology soon. ARB has received a requisition to remove two of the directors, and appoint others. The company has been focused on providing a cryptocurrency mining service and floated on AIM at a price of 16p – it’s now just over 3p. But a few weeks ago it gave up the “mining-as-a-service” business to focus ...

Safestore and Fundsmith AGMs

Today I attended the Annual General Meeting of Safestore Holdings Plc (SAFE) in Borehamwood. Their head office is next to one of their self-storage units. They now have 146 stores with a concentration in London/South-East England, and in major UK cities, plus some in Paris. The Chairman, Alan Lewis, commenced the meeting with a very brief statement. He said 2018 was a good year with good strategic progress. He is confident value creation will continue. Note that Mr Lewis is stepping down ...

Patisserie and Interserve Administrations, plus Brexit latest

Yesterday the administrators (KPMG) of Patisserie (CAKE) issued their initial report. It makes for grim reading. The hole in the accounts was much worse than previously thought with an overstatement of net assets of at least £94 million. That includes: Intangible assets overstated by £18m; Tangible assets overstated by £5m; Cash position overstated by £54m; Prepayments and debtors overstated by £7m; Creditors understated by £10m. The accounts were clearly a total fiction. It is uncertain whether there will even be sufficient assets ...

Interserve Administration: I am very angry!

I attended Interserve's General Meeting today and I am... ...angry with major shareholders, who didn't hold the board to account and couldn't be bothered to speak or vote today. ...angry with former board members who, in my opinion, did not properly exercise their corporate governance responsibilities. ...and angry with former executives who drove the Interserve ship onto the rocks... and were still well-rewarded. In short, a massive failure of corporate governance and corporate stewardship. Those responsible should hang their heads in shame. Government should consider ...

Superdry – Does It Need a Revolution?

I mentioned the requisition of an EGM to appoint two new directors at Superdry (SDRY) in a previous article. Here’s some more analysis: The requisition has been submitted by two founders – former CEO Julian Dunkerton and James Holder who together hold about 29% of the ordinary shares. They wish to appoint Julian and Peter Williams as non-executive directors – Mr Williams is a very experienced director of consumer products companies and is currently Chairman of Boohoo.com Plc although he is stepping ...

Another Accounting Scandal – Goals Soccer Centres

Yet another problem in accounting has been revealed at Goals Soccer Centres (GOAL). This morning they disclosed in a trading update the discovery of “certain accounting errors” and are reviewing their accounting practices. As a result, the board now expects full year results to be below expectations and publication of the 2018 results has been delayed. The even worse news is that they have breached their banking covenants so are having to have one of those difficult conversations with their bankers. The ...