Morrisons: ‘Strain could use results to trim dividend’

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NEW Morrisons finance director Trevor Strain could use Thursday’s half-year results to trim the supermarket chain’s “generous” dividend, analysts have warned.

Britain’s fourth-largest grocer had promised to increase its payout to shareholders by 10 per cent each year in the three years to 2013-14.

But analysts at JP Morgan warned: “The new finance 
director might use his first results public presentation to change the guidance.”

Chief executive Dalton Philips is expected to use 
the announcement to try to reassure the market that his roll-out of convenience stores and a deal to move into online retailing with Ocado can revive the firm’s fortunes.

Like-for-like sales fell by 1.8 per cent in the three months to 5 May, as discount chains such as Aldi and Lidl squeezed Morrisons.

Santander analyst Tim 
Attenborough said: “It has not been an easy 18 months for Morrisons. The company has suffered from a loss of market share, slipped into negative like-for-like sales, and earnings momentum has been very negative.”

Shore Capital analysts think the like-for-like sales decline may have eased to 
1.3 per cent for the first half of the year, but warned the real decrease could be up to 4 per cent once inflation is stripped out.