Debenhams shares plunge as retailer issues fourth profit warning

Group said previous claim that it was on track to deliver results in line with expectations is 'no longer valid'

Caitlin Morrison@citycait
Tuesday 05 March 2019 09:56
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Debenhams closures: High street chain to shut 50 stores around UK, putting 4,000 jobs at risk

Debenhams has issued another profit warning due to poor sales, sending shares down 12 per cent on Tuesday.

The retailer made an unscheduled trading update to clarify that a statement in January claiming it was on track to deliver results in line with market expectations was “no longer valid”.

In February, Debenhams received a £40m cash injection from lenders, allowing it to pursue long-term refinancing.

However, on Tuesday, the group said “this process is likely to be disruptive to our business in the coming months”, resulting in the latest profit warning.

Meanwhile, like-for-like sales in the first 18 weeks of the financial year dropped by 5.7 per cent, with UK sales down 6.2 per cent.

Sergio Bucher, chief executive of the store, said: “We are making good progress with our stakeholder discussions to put the business on a firm footing for the future. We still expect that this process will lead to around 50 stores closing in the medium term.

“Our priority is to secure the best outcome for the business and all our stakeholders, whilst minimising the number of store closures and job losses. To do this, as we have said before, we will need the support of both landlords and local authorities to address our rents, rates and lease commitments.”

Debenhams has been trying to cut costs in a bid to stem losses, and last year announced plans to close 50 stores, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Debenhams closures: High street chain to shut 50 stores around UK, putting 4,000 jobs at risk

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Debenhams is on the ropes at the moment, and continued tough trading conditions on the UK high street have delivered yet another blow to the ailing retailer.

“With less money coming through the door, Debenhams is going to have to rely more on debt to fund its operations, and that adds further financial pressure on the company.”

He added: “We don’t know quite how badly profits will be hit as yet, but the fact Debenhams has ushered out an unscheduled trading statement tells us its forthcoming interim results aren’t going to make for pleasant reading.

“Debenhams’ future is hanging in the balance, and with short sellers circling too, we can expect share price movements to be volatile. The department store needs to stage a Lazarus-like recovery to turn things around from here.”

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