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STOCK WATCH: A slam Dunk… as Superdry shapes up well in the cold 

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Julian Dunkerton’s achievement in wrestling back control of Superdry, the brand he co-founded in 2003, was nothing short of heroic earlier this year.

Now he has to deliver the goods.

The clothing company’s first-half results this week might make for ‘grim reading,’ broker Peel Hunt reckons, because there is work to do with exceptional costs in the pipeline.

Julian Dunkerton is expected to update investors on the speed of Superdry's recovery

Julian Dunkerton is expected to update investors on the speed of Superdry's recovery

Julian Dunkerton is expected to update investors on the speed of Superdry’s recovery

But this is a turnaround story, so the focus will be on the speed of recovery.

The broker’s analyst John Stevenson says current trading may have benefited from colder, more favourable weather. ‘Industry chatter is also more positive and the store staff are in a more positive frame of mind.

‘So perversely, as we may see pressure on benchmark profits, the hope of recovery, rather than the numbers, is likely to be the driver of the share price,’ he says.

Liberum seems to agree the shares have room to rise.

The price was ‘incredibly attractive’ at 463p, it said in a note published last month with a price target of 600p.

Now at 503p it might be worth bagging some shares if you believe the entrepreneur can sew up a turnaround.  

ECB meeting 

This week’s meeting of the European Central Bank is the first chance for Christine Lagarde to set out her stall as its new president.

ECB's new president, Christine Lagarde, is unlikely to make any changes to the bank¿s policy on Thursday

ECB's new president, Christine Lagarde, is unlikely to make any changes to the bank¿s policy on Thursday

ECB’s new president, Christine Lagarde, is unlikely to make any changes to the bank’s policy on Thursday

Lagarde is unlikely to make any changes to the bank’s policy on Thursday, but the response she gets will be key. 

George Buckley at Nomura said: ‘What will be far more important will be how the markets perceive Ms Lagarde. Will she adopt a dovish, hawkish or neutral tone, for example, in her prepared remarks and in response to questions from the press subsequently?’

Lagarde may also give more detail on plans for a strategic review and future targets.

Purplebricks

Keeping a closer eye than most on the General Election is Purplebricks.

The embattled online estate agent – which has bailed from America and Australia this year after failed launches in both countries – releases its half-year results on Thursday, the day the country goes to the polls.

Revenues are expected to be a touch below last year at around £63 million. But the outcome of the Election the following day is likely to have more of an impact on shares.

More uncertainty (a hung Parliament) is likely to be bad for the housing market as people put off moving, as many have in the South East this year.

Hollywood Bowl 

City scribblers are predicting no horror show for Hollywood Bowl on Friday the 13th (Election result aside).

In fact, Peel Hunt analysts reckon the bowling operator’s annual results will come in strong, with pre-tax profits up 11 per cent to £26.5million, helped by like-for-like sales growth of 5.5 per cent.

The company has plans to return cash to shareholders in the form of a special dividend.

The amount could depend on these results. If they are stronger than expected then investors could be in for an early Christmas present. 

Contributor: Neil Craven 

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Mining giant tables £405m bid for Sirius Minerals: Investors urged to back Anglo American takeover

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Sirius Minerals has warned investors it is likely to collapse within weeks unless they approve a £405m rescue deal from a mining giant.

Anglo American formally offered to buy the Yorkshire potash miner for 5.5p per share yesterday.

The bid came after the two companies revealed earlier this month they were in advanced talks about a takeover. The move surprised the City and infuriated the 85,000 private shareholders who spent years backing the project with their own cash but now feel betrayed.

Warning: Sirius has failed to finish building its mine under the North York Moors national park

Warning: Sirius has failed to finish building its mine under the North York Moors national park

Warning: Sirius has failed to finish building its mine under the North York Moors national park

An investor who bought £10,000 of shares when they peaked above 40p each in 2016 would be left with a holding worth just £1,250 from the Anglo American deal.

But Sirius chairman Russell Scrimshaw said that while the price will be a ‘shock’ to many, Anglo’s lifeline is the only ‘feasible option’ to save the sprawling fertiliser mine and thousands of jobs it promised to bring to the local area.

According to Scrimshaw, Sirius received another approach shortly after Anglo’s interest was first revealed. But the board decided Anglo’s offer, which will see it largely sticking to Sirius’s construction timetable.

Scrimshaw warned: ‘If the acquisition is not approved by shareholders and does not complete, there is a high probability that the business could be placed into administration or liquidation within weeks.’

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: ‘Sirius’s longer-term shareholders might be reluctant to take such a big hit, however, there aren’t any other offers on the table.’

One shareholder told the Mail: ‘I am a long-term holder who has lost more than £100,000,’ adding that ‘the private shareholder has served his purpose and has now been royally shafted’.

Mark Cutifani, Anglo’s chief executive, said he was ‘sensitive’ to the fact that many Sirius investors will have lost money in the project, but did not comment on why they were not being offered stock in Anglo’s offer.

He added that Sirius chief executive Chris Fraser and several other executives would stay in their roles for at least a year.

They will continue to receive their current remuneration package and also participate in bonus schemes. In 2018, Fraser, a former investment banker, received a basic salary of £475,000 and a bonus of the same amount. Figures for 2019 are not available.

Sirius has been struggling to stay afloat since it failed to raise £400m of funding in September. The bond was needed to unlock a further £2 billion of funding which it needed to finish building the mine under the North York Moors national park.

Building the mine, which would access the largest known reserve of a fertiliser called polyhalite, involves sinking two one-mile shafts and digging a 23-mile tunnel that will transport the minerals to a plant on Teesside. When the fundraising fell apart, Sirius stripped out costs, went to a bare-bones construction schedule to keep costs low and began looking for a strategic partner.

Sirius reckoned it needed £2.5 billion in total to build the mine, which it insists would be low-cost to run and could produce polyhalite for 50 years. Anglo does not expect there to be any ‘major changes’ in employee numbers. Sirius has estimated it will create 4,000 jobs in one of the most deprived areas of the country.

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Wetherspoon cutting price of ten drinks from January 31 to mark Britain’s exit from European Union

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Wetherspoon is cutting the price of ten drinks from January 31 to mark Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The pub group’s so-called ‘Let’s stay friends’ move will offer customers around 60p off drinks which originate in European countries including Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Holland and Ireland, as well as from across the UK.

Drinking to success: The promotion will run until February 29 in all of the company's 870 pubs

Drinking to success: The promotion will run until February 29 in all of the company's 870 pubs

Drinking to success: The promotion will run until February 29 in all of the company’s 870 pubs

The promotion will run until February 29 in all of the company’s 870 pubs.

The drinks include Estrella Galicia from Spain, Beck’s from Germany, Peroni from Italy, Tyskie from Poland and Grey Goose Vodka from France.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: ‘Many of our customers are keen to celebrate Brexit. At the same time, we want to remain friends with our European neighbours.’

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One of Britain’s oldest department store chains crashes into administration

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One of Britain’s oldest department store chains has crashed into administration after a bleak Christmas – putting more than 1,000 jobs at risk.

Beales, which dates back to 1881, has become the latest victim of the crisis gripping the High Street.

The failure of the 139-year-old chain comes after major retailers such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis struggled during the festive period at the end of a particularly bleak year for the sector.

Hit hard: Beales, which dates back to 1881, has become the latest victim of the crisis gripping the High Street

Hit hard: Beales, which dates back to 1881, has become the latest victim of the crisis gripping the High Street

Hit hard: Beales, which dates back to 1881, has become the latest victim of the crisis gripping the High Street

Beales has been weighed down by crippling rent payments and soaring business rates, while tough competition from online rivals and falling numbers of shoppers on the High Street have also taken a toll.

In response, bosses were seeking to overhaul product ranges and shops while seeking potential buyers or investors to secure the firm’s balance sheet.

But administrators at KPMG yesterday said poor trading over Christmas had hammered the final nail into the coffin.

For now, the chain’s 23 shops will continue to trade as normal and it will also honour gift vouchers.

Its website, however, has been taken down and about 1,050 jobs are under threat as administrators look for a buyer.

KPMG’s Will Wright said: ‘With the impact of high rents and rates exacerbated by disappointing trading over the Christmas period, and extensive discussions around additional investment proving unsuccessful, there were no other available options but to place the company into administration. Over the coming weeks, we will endeavour to continue to operate all stores as a going concern while we assess options for the business.’

Bournemouth-based Beales traces its history back to the late 19th century when founder John Beale opened his Fancy Fair and Oriental House. The company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1995, but was returned to private ownership through a management buyout in 2018.

Tony Brown, the company’s boss, has previously blamed the retailer’s woes on difficult trading conditions and criticised the ‘lunacy’ of high business rates, which are collected by councils.

He accused local authorities of failing to help struggling retailers, saying they ‘really don’t care’ about High Street stores. Speaking to the BBC last week, he said: ‘We’ve only managed to get one council to help us out on a temporary basis.

‘At the moment, in my view, councils really don’t care, because they get their business rates whether we’re there or not, because the landlord pays if the store closes.’

Department stores in particular have suffered hardest from the High Street downturn. House Of Fraser fell into administration in 2018, before it was snapped up by Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, formerly Sports Direct.

Debenhams also fell into administration and was rescued by its lenders, while John Lewis warned earlier this month that it may scrap its annual bonus for employees after weak Christmas sales.

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