MARKS & Spencer boss Marc Bolland was meant to repeat the success he had at Morrisons, the supermarket chain, but it’s not quite going to plan. He could even find himself at the wrong end of a takeover battle.
Bolland has been under pressure for some months following sluggish results and criticism from its patient army of shoppers who have become fractious over the route he’s taking the high street stalwart.
Still best known as a staple source of underwear, M&S has dipped in and out of fashion accessories and electricals and is now hoping a move into delis, in-store bakeries and banking will bring in those who’ve deserted it for Primark at one end and John Lewis at the other.
Rumours that the company could succumb to a takeover were mentioned in The Scotsman in mid-July as investors reacted badly to a trading update and the company’s valuation slumped to a range that put it within reach of a cash-rich bidder.
CVC, a private equity firm, is now sniffing around the M&S aisles hoping for a bargain. But it won’t be a quick and easy deal. A buyer would have to pay upwards of £6 billion and take on almost £2bn of debt.
The biggest hurdle would be finding the improvement in performance that has eluded Bolland, who has hired a new team following the departure of head of merchandise Kate Bostock.
In a deliberate attempt to show he’s on top of the issues, Bolland has recruited fashion guru Belinda Earl as style director in the hope that she can inject some life into its flagging womenswear range.
There is some sympathy for Bolland, who is not alone in suffering from the retail squeeze. It’s not that M&S is struggling, but critics point to the success of Debenhams and John Lewis and ask why M&S is not doing better. It may need to improve if it is to avoid investors becoming restless for more change.
Bear with Aggreko as it powers ahead
SHAREHOLDERS in Aggreko were shaken a couple of months ago when the price slumped below 2,000p following a sales warning from a supplier. But in spite of some misplaced scary headlines, they were advised by this column to stay loyal to the temporary power provider.
Those who took the hint have been rewarded with a 15 per cent uplift since then and on Friday saw the shares take on another 25p in an otherwise lacklustre session.
The latest fillip was a sign of more work coming from India, which has suffered widespread power cuts. This comes on top of supply contracts for the London Olympics worth around £50 million.
Aggreko backers are now targeting £2,700p a share. Stay with it.
Dawson saga may have happy ending
THE end-game for Dawson International is nearing now that the administrator has set a deadline as early as this Wednesday for indicative offers for the Barrie knitwear business in Hawick.
It’s been a sad story of decline for a business that once employed thousands and owned some of the best-known brands in the textiles trade, including Pringle and Ballantyne.
As we reported last week, Belinda Robertson Cashmere is among those which have shown interest in picking up a business that still makes good margins but has been laid low by its pensions liabilities. Some 35 expressions of interest raise hopes of a happy ending.