Going Down: Marks & Spencer

Shares in Marks & Spencer fell 16 per cent to their lowest level in more than five years as the company said pre-tax profit this year will plunge by as much as 46 per cent after Christmas sales fell short of forecasts. Clothing and furnishing fared the worst.

The company's difficulties have multiplied in recent months. Its shares, once a byword for steady growth, have sunk 44 per cent in the last 12 months. A management battle has resulted in the appointment of a new chief executive, Peter Salsbury, who takes over next month. The company is also eliminating two senior executive positions and will create three units to oversee British retailing, overseas retailing and financial services.