BUSINESS LIVE Housebuilder profits suffer; Primark sales slow; Boohoo CFO quits

The FTSE 100 will open at 8am. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are Crest Nicholson, Watkin Jones, Henry Boot, Associated British Foods, Boohoo, Quiz and Marston’s. Read the Tuesday 23 January Business Live blog below.

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Primark sales slow

Primark sales growth slowed during the crucial Christmas quarter and owner Associated British Foods warned it could face additional supply costs due to the disruption in the Red Sea.

Primark’s like-for-like sales rose 2.1 per cent in the 16 weeks to 6 Janusary, its fiscal first quarter, a slowdown from growth of 8 per cent in the previous quarter.

Total sales were up 7.9 per cent over the period which ABF said was marked by ‘a slow start given the unseasonal warm weather, and strong Christmas trading’.

AB Foods said it now felt more confident in Primark delivering an improved adjusted operating margin in the 2023/24 financial year, driven by a further improvement in product gross margin.

‘This should insulate us well against potential additional costs of supply due to the disruption in the Red Sea should they arise,’ it said.

Endeavour pushes ahead with ‘serious misconduct’ probe into ousted former boss

Endeavour said an investigation into its former boss who was sacked due to ‘serious misconduct’ will be completed ‘as quickly as possible’.

The gold miner’s board fired Sebastien de Montessus as chief executive this month amid a probe into a £4.6million ‘irregular payment instruction’ he issued.

Last week the board stripped the French businessman, who had led the company since 2016, of more than £23million in pay and bonuses.

Housebuilder profits suffer

Housebuilders experienced a difficult 2023 as rising interest rates and a weaker UK consumer weighed on property sales, with Crest Nicholson, Henry Boot and Watkin Jones all reporting weaker earnings on Tuesday.

Crest Nicholson posted an adjusted pre-tax profit for the year to 31 December of £41.4million, down from £137.8million a year earlier and missing forecasts of £44million.

Henry Boot said it was on track to deliver 2023 profit before tax of £37.2million, in line with forecasts, down from £45.6million the prior year.

Watkin Jones slumped to a pre-tax loss of £2.9million, compared to a profit of £48.8million the prior year, though this was largely as a result of a £35million provision for building safety remedial works.

Alex Pease, CEO of Watkin Jones, said ‘Significant cost inflation and volatility in real estate funding markets meant that FY23 represented a period of unprecedented challenge for the business.

‘However, I am pleased that against this backdrop the Group demonstrated resilience and agility, taking a number of important actions operationally.’