August 9, 2018 / 6:45 AM / 3 months ago

Card Factory shares slide after warns of profit decline

(Reuters) - Britain’s Card Factory (CARDC.L) on Thursday warned core earnings would fall this year as extreme weather and weak consumer confidence kept shoppers away from the greeting card retailer’s stores, sending its shares sliding.

The company, which also reported a decline in half-year same-store sales, is another example of tough times for British high street retailers, which have also been hit by online competition.

Card Factory said it now expects underlying earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for 2019 to be between 89 and 91 million pounds in the year to the end of January 2019.

Card Factory reported underlying full-year core profit of 94 million pounds last year but had warned in April of only limited growth.”We continue to experience a weak consumer environment, made all the more challenging by the impact of this year’s extreme weather conditions on high street footfall,” Chief Executive Officer Karen Hubbard said.

A cold late winter has been followed by a rare summer heatwave in Britain.

The company, which operates over 900 stores and two websites, said half-year like-for-like sales fell 0.2 percent, compared to a 3.1 percent rise a year ago.

Comparable sales for Card Factory stores fell by 0.7 percent in the first six months, down from a 3 percent rise last year.

“..it is clear that management is expecting a tough H2 as well, and everyday card volumes must be under severe pressure right now,” Peel Hunt analysts said, adding that “new designs and improved store navigability are not resonating with customers it would seem.”

Shares fell as much as 11 percent at 186.2 pence, the lowest since it reported full-year results in April.

Card Factory, which began with a single store in 1997 and listed in 2014 at 225 pence-a-share, said it was on track to open 50 stores for the full year. It said it was well positioned for a good performance in the Christmas trading season.

As UK sales slow, the company has been considering expanding into Ireland and currently has seven trial stores open in the country.

“We suspect the remainder of the openings will be more heavily weighted towards the UK as the Republic of Ireland trial appears to be delivering results somewhat below expectations,” Liberum analysts said in a note.

Despite the troubles, the company reconfirms that it continues to have a strong cash position with reasonable debt, which could allow it to declare a special dividend of between 5 pence to 10 pence towards the end of fiscal 2019.

However, Investec analysts warn the payout was likely to be at the bottom end of the range.

Reporting by Sangameswaran S and Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr/Keith Weir

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