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Today’s news in brief-7/12/23

Kelso, an activist shareholder in THG, has intensified its campaign for THG to clarify its plans to separate its three business divisions. Kelso believes that splitting the divisions (beauty, nutrition, and ecommerce services) would bridge the gap between THG’s share price and its true value. The shareholder has written to THG’s board requesting a stock market statement outlining proposals for the demerger. THG, founded by Matthew Moulding, is yet to confirm whether it will proceed with the separation. The move follows Moulding’s recent investment in Kelso, indicating internal dynamics within THG.

Frasers Group announces a 25.7% increase in half-year retail profits, reaching £364.7m, primarily driven by the robust performance of Sports Direct. Profit before tax rose by 8% to £310.2m, and retail revenues increased by 4%, attributed to acquisitions and Sports Direct’s strong performance. Efficiency improvements from the warehouse automation project are expected to lead to a 5% to 15% gross reduction in like-for-like inventory holding in the next year. Frasers Group’s CEO, Michael Murray, expresses confidence in their diversified proposition, despite short-to-medium-term challenges in the luxury market.

Black Friday weekend in 2023 surpasses 2019 figures, becoming the busiest day of the year, according to New West End Company. Early morning shoppers seeking deals contribute to higher footfall, overcoming challenges like Elizabeth Line closures. A survey reveals that 60% of visitors acknowledge Black Friday deals as a key reason to visit, with a third willing to spend more. The West End’s ‘Magic Days’ campaign contributes to buoyant footfall, aligning with forecasts estimating consumer spending up to £1.64bn over the festive period. New West End Company’s CEO, Dee Corsi, sees the uptick as a positive sign for businesses amid challenging conditions.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) takes action against Morrisons and Marks and Spencer, finding them guilty of anti-competitive land deals. Both retailers agree to address 65 unlawful land agreements preventing competitors from opening nearby. The deals breached the Groceries Market Investigation (Controlled Land) Order 2010. Morrisons breached the order 55 times between 2011 and 2020, with 41 outstanding restrictions. M&S breached it 10 times between 2015 and 2019, with five remaining restrictions. The CMA stresses the importance of healthy supermarket competition for consumers.

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The Watches of Switzerland Group posts flat H1 revenues of £761m, attributing the performance to softer consumer sentiment in the broader jewellery market and a shift to full-price sales in the US. The US segment sees continued strong momentum with an 11% increase in revenues. However, the UK and Europe experience a 4% decline in revenue. CEO Brian Duffy acknowledges challenges in the UK consumer environment but expresses confidence in the company’s global performance. The group remains focused on its Long Range Plan objectives, aiming to double sales and profit by 2028.

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