Weekly outlook: Can Ocado deliver?

Key events for UK wealth managers for the week starting 27 February


Monday 27 February

  • – Full-year results from Bunzl
  • – First-half results from Dechra Pharmaceuticals
  • – Trading statement from Associated British Foods
  • – US durable goods orders
  • – US pending homes sales
  • – In Europe, quarterly results from Saipem
  • – In the US, quarterly results from Berkshire Hathaway, Occidental Petroleum and Zoom Video Communications

Tuesday 28 February

  • – Full-year results from Intertek, Abdrn, Travis Perkins, UNITE, Rotork, Derwent London and XP Power
  • – Full year results from Ocado

AJ Bell’s Russ Mould and Danni Hewson noted that shares in the online grocer and self-styled delivery software and technology play are down more than 50% over the past year, and three-quarters below their all-time high in autumn 2020.

Ocado Retail, the 50-50 food delivery venture with Marks & Spencer, is one of three parts of the business, and it has already unveiled its fourth-quarter and full-year performance for fiscal 2022. Mould and Hewson noted that fourth-quarter sales were broadly flat at £549m, taking the full-year total to £2.2bn, down 4% year-on-year.

Cost-of-living pressures and a reversal of the upswing experienced by pandemic businesses has hit Ocado’s retail business according to Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown. She said investors will be keen to find out if the extra focus on its perfect execution programme, which aims to offer better value for money, improved efficiency, and product availability, shows any sign of reaping rewards in terms of customer loyalty and attracting new shoppers.

Streeter added: “This drive may help long term retention but it’s going to come at an extra cost to the business with cash profits already set to be negative for the first half due to the expectation of lower volumes.”

An eye on the average basket value will reveal whether shoppers are becoming more confident about their finances. Streeter noted that it came in at £117 for the last quarter, and any progress or fresh stumble here is likely to affect the company’s share price.

“While Ocado’s vans may be front-of-mind in terms of brand, it’s the hidden-away solutions business that will be the real driver of long-term growth. This provides robotic systems for third-party retailers to use, although expansion is costly and the number of new deals being inked appeared to be dwindling. For a meaningful recovery in the valuation, such deals need to start being delivered more frequently,’’ she concluded.

  • – UK Nationwide house price index
  • – Flash purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs) for manufacturing and services industries from China
  • – German retail sales
  • – Case-Shiller US house price index
  • – In Asia, quarterly results from Sea
  • – In Europe, quarterly results from Bayer, ASMI, Moncler, Aixtron and Viscofan
  • – In the US, quarterly results or trading updates from Target, HP Inc, JM Smucker, Rivian, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Manchester United

Wednesday 1 March

  • – Full-year results from Reckitt Benckiser, Weir, Nichols, Aston Martin Lagonda and Capital & Counties
  • – FTSE index membership changes confirmed in UK
  • – Full-year results from Persimmon

Persimmon is feeling the pressure of a tough housing market, said Aarin Chiekire, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, with the group’s valuation tumbling around 40% in the last 12 months. Notably weaker customer demand and higher cancellations pushed full-year forward sales down from £1.6bn to £1.0bn in 2022, Chiekire said, and as the mortgage rate environment remains challenging for home buyers, Hargreaves Lansdown does not expect to hear things picking up in this area.

AJ Bell’s Mould and Hewson pointed to the absence of Help to Buy, stamp duty tax breaks and other artificial stimuli as contributing factors to the drop-off in demand. In January, UK mortgage approvals figure plunged to just under 36,000, down by more than a fifth from December and by half from January 2022, they added.

Chiekire said Hargreaves Lansdown was most interested in Persimmon’s outlook statement, in which the group should give an indication of how forward sales have been at the start of this year, as well as what the rest of 2023 could look like.

He added “The fear is that the current dip in house prices could be the start of a bigger correction. If that looks like the case next week, there could be a negative market reaction, despite a lot of concerns already being priced in.”

  • – Final purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs) for manufacturing industries from Asia, Europe, the UK and US
  • – US monthly car sales
  • – US weekly oil inventories
  • – In Europe, quarterly results from Beiersdorf, Puma and Just Eat Takeaway.com
  • – In the US, quarterly results from Salesforce.com, Snowflake, Dollar Tree, Splunk, Formula One, Wendy’s and Nio

Thursday 2 March

  • – Full-year results from London Stock Exchange, Haleon, Melrose Industries, Flutter Entertainment, Taylor Wimpey, CRH, Beazley, Metro Bank, Hunting, Funding Circle, National Express and Capita
  • – Full year results from ITV

The potential of ITV’s studios arm and new streaming service appears to be attracting interest from several suitors, according to Hargreaves Lansdown’s Streeter. She added: “The company had disappointed the market by warning that high inflation was going to be a headache this year, so any sign that there has been success in reining in costs would be well received.

“ITV plans to double digital revenue by 2026 and, so far, that target appears to be going to plan given that its ITVX subscription based streaming service performed strongly in the first month after its launch in early December. Investors will be keen to find out if this trend continues or whether subscriptions were skewed due to the world cup.

“User growth has been strong, thanks also to its joint BritBox venture with the BBC and its ITV Hub service, but competition in the subscription streaming space is hot and persuading consumers to shell out for another monthly fee may be a hard sell in the current climate when household budgets continue to be stretched.”

  • – First-half results from Hotel Chocolat
  • – EU inflation
  • – US weekly unemployment claims
  • – In Asia, quarterly results from JD.com
  • – In Europe, quarterly results from Merck, Universal Music, Hapag-Lloyd, Ferrovial, Clariant, Brembo, Vallourec and Subsea7
  • – In the US, quarterly results from CostCo, Dell, VMWare, Marvell Technologies, Kroger, Hormel, HP Enterprises, BestBuy, Macy’s and Icahn Enterprises

Friday 3 March

  • – Full-year results from Pearson, Rightmove and IMI
  • – Final purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs) for manufacturing industries from Asia, Europe, the UK and US
  • – In Europe, quarterly results from ABInBev and Lufthansa

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