They have today issued full year results to 31st Jan 2016 (pdf link via Next plc). Retail stores and its online business both continued to deliver growth to lift profit before tax 5% to £821.3m , with earnings per share up 5.4% to 442.5p (2015 419.8p).
Sales are up 3% to £4.15bn .
Commenting on the results, Lord Wolfson warned:
"In many ways we have more to do than ever before with complex challenges to our working practices across product, marketing and systems", Wolfson said. "It may well feel like walking up the down escalator, with a great deal of effort required to stand still".
"The year ahead may well be the toughest we have faced since 2008. We are very clear on our priorities going forward and whatever challenges we may face, it is important that we remain focused on ensuring that the Company's product, marketing, services and cost controls all improve in the year ahead".
They are forecasting sales growth of around 1.5% for the coming year, profits around the same as 2015 with total shareholder return of around 5% or 6% including special dividends and share buybacks.
The share price has seen some weakness since the start of the year and although the results were actually ahead of expectations, the downbeat warning has sent the share price into a tailspin - currently down ~12% to £58 at the time of posting. The shares were trading at a high of ~£80 this time last year, so a fall of over 25%!
Unfortunately, this volatility is one of the downsides of holding equities in general and individual shares in particular and the main reason I have decided to wind down my shares portfolio and focus on my investment trusts and index funds.
On a more positive note, the board have declared a final dividend of 105p making a total of 158p for the year - an increase of 5%. In addition there have been special dividends of 230p, the latest being 60p per share paid in February.
Next anticipate distributing £200m to shareholders in 2016/17 I am hoping there will be more special dividends to come over the coming year and will therefore hold the shares for the time being. They may well however elect to implement a buy-back of shares given the current price weakness. Either way, if they can return a total of £3.88 over the coming year, the forward yield is an attractive 6.7% which should provide support for the price to recover.
My sense is that the sell off has, as usual, been over-done but then what do I know - the markets are almost always efficient!
Leave a comment if you have any views on Next.
Finally, have a great Easter break - take it easy!