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MARKET REPORT: New blow to Royal Mail as strikes take their toll

MARKET REPORT: New blow to Royal Mail as postal workers prepare for another wave of strikes sending shares crashing 3.9%

Shares in the owner of Royal Mail fell again as postal workers prepare to embark on another wave of strikes.

International Distribution Services (IDS) – as the parent of the beleaguered 506-year-old company is now called – fell 3.9 per cent, or 8.3p, to 204.3p after City analysts turned on the group.

In a note to clients, HSBC downgraded its rating on the stock to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’ and cut its price target to 215p from 485p.

Down sacks: Having clocked up a 14th day of strikes since August over the weekend, Royal Mail staff will walk out again tomorrow and Thursday and again on December 23 and 24

The analysts warned high inflation and weak parcel volumes were likely to take their toll.

It was the just the latest blow to Royal Mail as more than 100,000 postal workers strike in a bitter battle between company bosses and the unions.

Having clocked up a 14th day of strikes since August over the weekend, staff will walk out again tomorrow and Thursday and again on December 23 and 24.

Royal Mail – which is losing more than £1million a day – is locked in a dispute with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) over pay and conditions that threatens to leave Christmas cards and presents stranded in the post.

The company, which has urged customers to send their post out earlier than usual due to the strikes, has accused the CWU of ‘holding Christmas to ransom’.

But union barons claim Royal Mail bosses are ‘risking a Christmas meltdown because of their stubborn refusal to treat their employees with respect’.

With little goodwill in the air, and further disruption on the way, fears for the future of Royal Mail are mounting.

Stock Watch – Springfield Properties

Springfield Properties warned its profit for the year would be lower than hoped as rising interest rates hit demand for private housing.

The Scottish housebuilder said its profit to May 2023 would be ‘below’ the previous 12 months when it made £19.7million. Analysts expect £16million.

The warning came after the group said house prices are unlikely to rise in the short term and ongoing supply chain disruptions and rising costs are also taking their toll. 

Shares plunged 11.1 per cent, or 10p, to 80p.

Having changed the name of the parent company to IDS, it is thought its profitable international parcels delivery arm Global Logistics Services (GLS) could be spun off into a successful standalone company.

That would cast Royal Mail – which dates back to 1516 and the reign of Henry VIII – adrift, racking up yet more losses amid deteriorating industrial relations.

To underline the state of crisis, the shares are languishing a long way below the 330p float price in 2013 and have fallen some 60 per cent this year.

On the wider market, the FTSE 100 slipped 0.4 per cent, or 30.66 points, to 7445.97 and the FTSE 250 fell 0.5 per cent, or 96.56 points, to 18819.44.

Home Reit showed few signs it was prepared to back down in its row with a short seller.

The group, which provides housing for the homeless, insisted all allegations made by Delaware-based Viceroy Research ‘are without substance’.

Home Reit issued an interim dividend of 1.38p per share and said its bookkeepers were carrying out ‘enhanced audit procedures’ including a ‘detailed review’ of the allegations.

The firm is desperately seeking to reassure investors after Viceroy, which is run by British activist investor Fraser Perring, last month published a report questioning the business model and its ability to collect rent. 

But the latest update did little to calm nerves and shares tumbled 17.2 per cent, or 8p, to a record low of 38.4p.

Ocado slid 2.5 per cent, or 16.8p, to 669.4p after HSBC trimmed the online grocer’s target price to 560p from 575p.

Sainsbury’s dropped 2.2 per cent, or 4.9p, to 221.5p and Currys fell 5.5 per cent, or 3.85p, to 88.15p.

Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, handed an additional board role to the chairman of property website Rightmove (up 0.04 per cent, or 0.2p, to 549.8p).

Andrew Fisher, who chairs the retail giant’s remuneration committee, will take over from Andy Halford as a senior independent director at the end of the year.

Marks & Spencer shares slid 3.1 per cent, or 3.85p, to 119.2p.