Anglo ‘rescues’ Sirius, Sainsbo’s makes grocery progress, Greggs performance baked in to shares

Anglo American is to play white knight to Sirius Minerals. Anglo is in advanced talks to but Sirius for 5.5p a share, valuing the business at £386m. The offer is a roughly 40% premium to yesterday’s close price although we can hardly call that undisturbed. AAL has until Feb 5th to make a firm offer. AAL shares were down 2.25% on the news – the project still requires major investment.

Shares in SXX jumped 35% after Anglo confirmed its bid – there was bid for the stock yesterday clearly as news of the offer leaked. Whilst this is great news for the holdouts and many retail investors still clinging to the stock, the valuation is still barely a tenth of what it once was.

If anyone can, Anglo can. As one of the largest miners in the world, it has the financial clout and expertise to make this project happen. We also wonder whether the government may have offered certain assurances. The fact this offer is public could make raising cash for other sources very tricky now, if not impossible, forcing SXX into something of a corner – even if the price is not the best they will have to accept it. The market knows they need cash ASAP but with this offer on the table, it’s now the only show in town – they have to recommend it or it’s curtains. Anglo is picking up a distressed asset on the cheap.

Sainsbury’s numbers don’t look fabulous but grocery remains broadly positive with a second straight quarter of growth amid a very challenging market. The problem lies with Argos.

Total grocery sales rose 0.4% but general merchandise (Argos) was down 3.9%. This was more disappointing than expected and seems to be down to a poor performance in toys and gaming. Clothing was very strong at +4.4% and delivered a particularly robust online performance.

That left total like-for-like sales -0.7%, which was broadly in line. Whilst, as we noted in November, tentative signs of recovery in the core grocery division, it cannot be ignored that under Mike Coupe the business has delivered five straight quarters of LFL sales declines (ex-fuel). Whilst Q2 showed some arresting in the decline, Q3 has not continued in the same vein. Shares were up and down around the flat line in early trade – it’s hard to really make a case for these results changing the narrative meaningfully – I think most of us would have hoped for a little better but grocery is good.

Greggs delivered again with another upgrade to add to November’s. Company-managed shop like-for-like sales were 9.2% with total sales up 13.5%. Fourth quarter like-for-like sales grew by 8.7%. Full year profits seen slightly higher than previously expected. Despite exceptionally tough prior year comparisons trading remains remarkably strong and with plans for more outlets there is still some growth in there, albeit you have to assume the kind of double digit growth won’t last. Shares dipped 3% on profit taking for sure. But with the company now valued at £2.4bn, is all the future growth fully baked in?

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