RNS Number : 6180Y

Next PLC

03 January 2020

 Date:          Embargoed until 07.00hrs, Friday 3 January 2020 
 Contacts:      Lord Wolfson, Chief Executive 
                Amanda James, Group Finance Director (analyst calls) 
                NEXT PLC                         Tel: 0333 777 8888 
                Alistair Mackinnon-Musson        Email: next@rowbellpr.com 
                Rowbell PR                       Tel: 020 7717 5239 
 Photographs:   http://www.nextplc.co.uk/media/image-gallery/campaign-images 

Next plc

Trading Statement - 3 January 2020


   *    Q4 full price sales(1) to 28 December up +5.2%, which 
        was +1.1% ahead of our internal forecast 
 *    Year to date, full price sales up +3.9% on last year 
   *    Full year profit guidance increased by GBP2m to 
        GBP727m(2) . This would represent an increase of 
        +0.6% on last year and Earnings Per Share (EPS) 
        growth of +5.4% 
   *    Looking ahead, initial guidance for the year ending 
        January 2021 is for full price sales to be up +3.0%, 
        profit up +1.0%, EPS growth of +3.5% 


The table below sets out the full price sales performance by division for both the Christmas trading period (27 October to 28 December) and the year to date (27 January to 28 December). Full price sales in the Christmas trading period were +1.1% (GBP9m) better than our internal forecast. We believe our sales performance in the period was helped by a much colder November than last year and improved stock availability in both our Retail stores and Online.

 Full price sales (VAT exclusive)                    27 Oct to 28 Dec   Year to 28 Dec 
==================================================  =================  =============== 
 Retail                                                        - 3.9%           - 4.6% 
 Online                                                        +15.3%           +12.1% 
 Product full price sales                                       +5.3%            +3.6% 
                                                    =================  =============== 
 Finance interest income                                        +3.4%            +7.8% 
 Total full price sales including interest income               +5.2%            +3.9% 

The chart below shows the year on year full price sales growth by quarter.

Click or paste the following link into your web browser to view the chart titled '2019 Full Price Sales Variance by Quarter vs 2018'.


End-of-Season Sale

Stock in our end-of-season Sale (including the stock we put into our Black Friday event) was down

-2.9% on last year and Clearance rates to date have been slightly lower than our expectations.


For the full year we expect full price sales growth of +3.9%, +0.3% ahead of the guidance given in October. We have increased our profit guidance for the full year by GBP2m to reflect these additional sales. Central guidance for EPS is 458.7p, an increase of +5.4% on the previous year.

 Full year estimate to January 2020          New central guidance   Previous central guidance 
==========================================  =====================  ========================== 
 Total full price sales versus 2018/19                      +3.9%                       +3.6% 
 Group profit before tax                                  GBP727m                     GBP725m 
 Group profit before tax versus 2018/19                     +0.6%                       +0.3% 
 Earnings Per Share                                        458.7p                      457.9p 
 Earnings Per Share growth versus 2018/19                   +5.4%                       +5.2% 
                                            =====================  ========================== 


Sales and Profit Guidance for the Year Ahead

Our guidance for full price sales growth for the year ahead is +3.0%. At this level of sales growth, we anticipate Group profit would be GBP734m, up +1% on the current financial year. This guidance is based on a 52 week sales period. However, next year will be a 53 week year to 30 January 2021 and we expect the additional week of sales to generate approximately GBP13m of profit.

Cash Flow Guidance for the Year Ahead

Based on the guidance above we anticipate underlying surplus cash generation of GBP315m. This would be a GBP12m increase on our latest forecast for the current year. Underlying surplus cash is defined as cash generated in a 52 week period after deducting interest, tax (on the same basis as last year), capital expenditure and ordinary dividends, but before funding 15% of the increase in our nextpay receivables(3) .

In the year ahead, HMRC are accelerating Corporation Tax payments so that the full tax charge is paid in the year in which it is incurred. Previously, half of the tax payment was deferred until the following year. This change will result in an additional GBP70m cash outflow to HMRC. This has the effect of (1) reducing the Company's liability to HMRC by GBP70m and (2) increasing the Group's financial net debt by GBP70m. Our aim is to reduce this debt over a period of two years by reducing the distribution of surplus cash to shareholders by GBP35m in the years ending January 2021 and January 2022.

After taking account of the earlier tax payment and the profit generated from the 53(rd) week of sales, surplus cash available to shareholders for distribution during 2020/21 is expected to be GBP290m.

 Cash flow                                                                         2019/20 Forecast   2020/21 Guidance 
================================================================================  =================  ================= 
 Underlying surplus cash (after interest, tax, capital expenditure and ordinary             GBP303m            GBP315m 
 Funding 15% of the increase in nextpay receivables                                         - GBP3m            - GBP3m 
 Earlier Corporation Tax payment                                                                              - GBP35m 
 53(rd) week                                                                                                   +GBP13m 
                                                                                  =================  ================= 
 Surplus cash                                                                               GBP300m            GBP290m 
                                                                                  =================  ================= 

This cash flow assumes Group debt will increase by GBP14m to fund 85% of the increase in nextpay receivables. The Group's financial net debt (excluding the timing impact of the earlier payment of Corporation Tax) is forecast to increase by around +1% in line with the forecast growth in Group profit.

Surplus Cash and EPS

As usual, our intention is to return surplus cash to shareholders through share buybacks or special dividends. Our buyback share price limit will continue to be based on achieving a minimum 8% Equivalent Rate of Return (ERR) on shares purchased. As a reminder, ERR is calculated by dividing the anticipated pre-tax profits by the current market capitalisation of the Group. Based on our profit guidance for the year to January 2021 of GBP734m and our current number of shares in issue, our price limit for share buybacks would be GBP71.76.

We intend to return at least half of our surplus cash (GBP145m) to shareholders in the first half of the year. If we have not been able to acquire shares to the value of GBP145m in the first half of the year we intend to distribute the balance(4) as a special dividend. We intend to use the same method for determining how we distribute surplus cash in the second half. As always, our decisions concerning buybacks or special dividends will be subject to market conditions and the interests of shareholders generally.

Our central guidance for sales, profits and EPS in the year ahead is set out in the table below. The EPS growth assumes that (1) we will be able to use all surplus cash to buy back shares at GBP71.76 and that (2) these will be purchased evenly throughout the year.

 Full year estimate to January 2021 (52 week basis)    Central guidance 
====================================================  ================= 
 Total full price sales versus 2019/20                            +3.0% 
 Group profit before tax                                        GBP734m 
 Group profit before tax versus 2019/20                           +1.0% 
 Earnings Per Share growth versus 2019/20                         +3.5% 

We are scheduled to announce our results for the full year ending January 2020 on Thursday 19 March.

(1) Full price sales include interest income.

(2) This profit estimate is on a pre-IFRS16 basis, consistent with the prior year.

(3) Our approach to funding nextpay receivables was detailed in our July 2019 Half Year End Statement, see page 41.

(4) The balance is the difference between GBP145m and the value of shares purchased.

Forward Looking Statements

Certain statements in this Trading Update are forward looking statements. These statements may contain the words "anticipate", "believe", "intend", "aim", "expects", "will", or words of similar meaning. By their nature, forward looking statements involve risks, uncertainties or assumptions that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from those expressed or implied by those statements. As such, undue reliance should not be placed on forward looking statements. Except as required by applicable law or regulation, NEXT plc disclaims any obligation or undertaking to update these statements to reflect events occurring after the date these statements were published.

This information is provided by RNS, the news service of the London Stock Exchange. RNS is approved by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a Primary Information Provider in the United Kingdom. Terms and conditions relating to the use and distribution of this information may apply. For further information, please contact rns@lseg.com or visit www.rns.com.



(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 03, 2020 02:00 ET (07:00 GMT)

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