Oct 25, 2019

Investors Chronicle — Next, Whitbread, BHP

The group's most recent annual report laid out potential plans for the next 15 years based on a stress test involving ongoing 10 per cent annual like-for-like declines. Still, a 4.9 per cent fall in first-half like-for-like retail sales and a drop in net margin from 7.6 per cent to 6.4 per cent meant the division's operating profit was down 23.5 per cent. The online division did much better, reporting a 13 per cent sales increase that translated into an 8.4 per cent rise in profit after net margin slipped from 18.3 to 17.6 per cent. Next's product range has grown far faster than sales - unique items grew 141 per cent over the past four years to 592,000, compared with online sales growth of 47 per cent. Buybacks have been important in keeping earnings per share moving forward, with a 9 per cent EPS rise expected for the five years to 2020 compared with a 7 per cent profit fall.

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