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Another encouraging peak trading period but a long way still to go

  • 10 Jan 17

As per our channel checks over Xmas, WINE duly delivered strong peak trading. Group sales +15.3% with the standout being +7.5% LFLs at Majestic Retail which represents c.90% of group trading profits despite very tough comps of +7.3% LFLs but at a big cost to the gross margin (we think c.50-75bps) given the highly price promotional UK wine retailing market. Management states that WINE is on track to be in line with full year expectations. We therefore nevertheless expect that FY17 PBT consensus of £11.3m will move to the top end of the current range (£10.7m - £12.4m) where our forecasts are struck. We have been consistently sceptical about the enlarged Majestic Wines/Naked Wines on a variety of levels. We continue to think that the restoration of the legacy Majestic Retail business to sustained growth, vitality and competitiveness will be highly protracted. Meanwhile, we think that Naked Wines has yet to prove its ability to grow both sales and profits simultaneously on a sustainable basis such is the financial model in online wine retailing based on customer lifetime values and the consequent criticality of customer acquisition and retention. Maintain HOLD as we expect forecast momentum to remain flat over the next 6 months, whilst we still struggle to agree with management’s contention that the WINE transformation plan is working such that it will drive a fundamentally different competitive position and a lasting step-change in WINE’s operational and financial performance.