Asda outstrips parent

03 September, 2007

Asda, the UK's second-biggest supermarket operator, pleasantly surprised the stockmarket, with underlying revenues up around 4.5% for its latest three months' trading.

Sales have been boosted by a strong advertising campaign. It is a similar performance to that achieved in its first three months.

Asda has been slashing prices on essential food products and met its forecast profit targets, outperforming its parent company Wal-Mart, whose sales only grew by 1.2% and which made a rare profit warning.

For its second quarter, Wal-Mart delivered profits of £1.45bn - far below what the market was expecting - and also cut profit forecasts for the year.

Meanwhile, Somerfield has seen its market share fall, according to TNS, the market research company. Sales at Somerfield fell by 8% in the 12 weeks to August 12, 2007, bringing its market share down from 4.4% a year ago to 3.9%.

J Sainsbury has decided against getting a "put up or shut up" order from the City's takeover panel to force Delta Two, the Qatari Royal Family investment vehicle, which has made an indicative offer of £10.6bn for Sainsbury's, to launch a bid. Instead, it is giving Delta Two more time to increase the share component of the bid. The Sainsbury family, who hold 18% of the shares, have insisted that they will not support a deal that is financed primarily by debt - the reason being that a high-debt funded takeover bid would create extra pressure on profit during a falling market.

The Qataris are pressing ahead with their £10.6bn offer, despite the stockmarket crash, which took Sainsbury's market share price well below the indicative offer price of 600p, and spurred doubts as to whether Delta Two can borrow the £7bn it needs to raise to finance the bid.

There is speculation that the Office of Fair Trading could stop the bid if Delta Two does not scale back its plans to load Sainsbury's with debt, as this would weaken its competitive position.

And Tesco has finally clinched its bid for Dobbies, the Scottish garden centre, and will now control its fortunes, although Scottish billionaire Sir Tom Hunter has a 29% stake and can exert considerable influence on future policies. As a result, Tesco cannot take Dobbies off the stockmarket, but it can boost its sales of barbecue foods through Dobbies, and also use its weight to get lower prices from Dobbies' suppliers.





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