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An introduction to the business of Debenhams in the UK

Debenhams in the United Kingdom is a public quoted company which specializes in the manufacture and sale of Clothing, home accessories, cosmetics and toiletries. Founded in 1813, the company started out as a small enterprise and has now emerged into a multinational corporation. The organization has grown mostly through acquisitions. These acquisitions have been of smaller clothing and cosmetic manufacturing companies, the first being a small scale company called Marshall Shelgrove in 1919. Debenhams has outlets, not only in the United Kingdom but also in and around Europe, Asia and Africa. They manufacture and export clothing and accessories to these countries. They have also targeted the market in United States and are still expanding. Their policy is to analyse the customer’s needs and specific requirements and provide the latest fashion accordingly. They use technologically advanced manufacturing methodology to ensure good quality and variety in their products. In the United Kingdom, one of their main competitors is Marks and Spencer PLC which is also a similar manufacturer and retailer. M&S has already expanded across the globe and is considered a highly reputable brand for clothing and other products.

Both these companies are considered the largest retailers in the United Kingdom. Both these companies have experienced various difficulties in the past few years due to recession. This essay examines the performance of the company in the last two years and how it was affected by the economic downturn, along with the position of the companies in the current scenario. The companies would have been in a better position if the downturn had not occurred. A prediction of the company’s performance sans the downturn is also mentioned in this essay.

Executive Summary

Analysis of the financial statements comparing both companies

Since the report examines the financial performance of the company, an accurate evaluation can only be made if the performance is compared with the closest competitor in order to understand the market situation and impact. In this case, the reports of Debenhams PLC and Marks and Spencer PLC will be examined, evaluated and compared for the years 2008 and 2009. This period was the time the economic downturn hit the industry and its gradual recovery. The companies will be compared in terms of ratio analysis which will compare the performance of the companies in the two years illustrating the impact of the downturn further leading to the measures and strategies applied to overcome the situation, and their improvement in the year 2009 when the market was recovering.

Specific ratios will be used to do the same which are divided into five categories.

Profitability ratios

Efficiency ratios

Liquidity ratios

Solvency ratios

Investment ratios

The ratios will be benchmarked against time by comparing each PLC’s performance over the analyzed period, and against the industry by making a comparison between the two of them.

The profitability ratio is a fundamental measure of business performance. (Atrill and McLaney,2008) The following profitability ratios will be calculated to evaluate the performance of Debenhams PLC and Marks and Spencer PLC.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE was used in order to test the effectiveness of the funds employed. The ration helps compare the profitability of the organizations using their operating profits against the capital invested. .(Atrill and McLaney,2008). ROCE measures the returns to long-term supply of finance before profit deduction (McKenzie 2003).

ROCE = Operating profit / (total assets – current liabilities)

Comparison:

For Debenhams during the year 2008 and 2009 the ROCE fell only 9.11%.

For M&S during the years 2008 and 2009 the ROCE fell 24.89%.

In 2008 M&S has better return on capital, which was 78.08% whereas Debenhams was 47.12%.

The graph shows the ROCE ratio is more favorable to M&S than Debenhams, Due to the efficient capital utilization by M&S.

Gross Profit Margin Ratio

Gross Profit Margin Ration relates to the gross profit margin and the sales revenue for the respective period. The ratio considers the cost of sales to establish the profitability of doing a business. In retail sectors both the companies incur considerable expenses selling their goods. In order to attract customers the companies promote various discounts and other promotions. Hence the Gross profit margin is calculated in order to distinguish the two companies.

Gross Profit / Sales Revenue = Gross Profit Margin Ratio

Comparison:

For Debenhams PLC, during the year 2008 and 2009 the gross margin fell 4.96%.

For M&S PLC, during the year 2008 and 2009 the gross margin fell 3.72%.

In 2008 and 2009 M&S had higher gross margin than Debenhams which was 165.62% for 2008 and 169.07% for 2009.

The graph shows decline in gross profit margin for both Debenhams and M&S but M&S had higher ratios than Debenhams.

Liquidity ratios

For companies to liquidize when required or carry on their debt they should not tie up too much money in assets. In order to judge between the two companies their abilities to pay bills and payback their creditors is compared using the following liquidity ratios.

Current Ratio

The current ratio is used to compare the company’s current assets with current liabilities over a period of 12 months to check if the assets the company holds is sufficient to pay the bills over the same period.

Current assets / Current Liabilities = Current Ratio

Comparison:

For M&S, during the years 2008 and 2009 the current ratio grew by 1.4%.

For Debenhams, during the years 2008 and 2009 the current ratio grew 62.59%.

In 2008 M&S has better current ratio compared to Debenhams which was 9.97%. In 2009 M&S current ratio declined to 31.41%.

Acid Test Ratio

Acid Test ratio is also know as the Quick ratio, this ratio is used to check the company’s ability to pay its bills excluding its inventory or the cash that is expected from the sale of its inventory. It is similar to the current ratio.

Quick Assets = Current assets - Inventory

Quick Assets/Current Liabilities = Acid Test Ratio

Comparison:

In 2009 Debenhams had 152.85% more highly liquid assets compared to the previous year.

In 2009 M&S had 6.25% more highly liquid assets compared to the previous year.

In 2008 M&S had higher liquid assets than Debenhams, which was 102.32% whereas in 2009 the M&S ratio went down by 14.98%.

Efficiency ratios.

Efficiency ratios are also called the activity ratios. This ratio checks the efficiency of the company in managing its resources and assets.

Stock Turnover Ratio

Stock turnover ratio is also called Inventory turnover ratio. This ratio predicts the time taken by a company to turn its inventory into sales. The company with a lower turnover time is preferred.

Stock Turnover Ratio = (inventories/sales)*365

Comparison:

For Debenhams in 2009 it took 8.6% more days to turnover their stocks compared to 2008.

For M&S in 2009 it took 6.65% more days to turnover their stocks compared to 2008.

In 2008 M&S took 41.55% lesser days than Debenhams whereas in 2009 M&S was 42.60% lesser days than Debenhams.

Total Asset Turnover Ratio

The total asset turnover ratio helps us establish how efficiently a company uses all of its assets. It is calculated as follows.

Total Asset Turnover Ratio = Net Sales / Total Assets

Comparison:

For Debenhams in 2008 the asset turnover ratio fell 8.51% as compared to 2009.

For M&S in 2008, the asset turnover ratio grew by 4.93% as compared to 2009.

In 2008 M&S had 27% better asset turnover ratio compared to Debenhams and in 2009 M&S had 45.64%.

Trade Debtors Collection Period

The average period taken by the credit customers to return the amount owed to the business is calculated by the average settlement period for the trade receivables. A shorter duration is more favorable to the business. In the retail sector the transactions are done over the counter hence for M&S and Debenhams the average settlement period is relatively low.

Trade debtors collection period = Trade Receivables/Credit Sales Revenue * 365

Comparison:

For M&S in 2009 it took 13.71% less days to collect their amount that debtors owe compared to 2008.

For Debenhams in 2009 it took 12.42% more days to collect their trade receivables compared to 2008.

In 2008 it took M&S 150.06% more days to collect trade receivables as compared to Debenhams, whereas in 2009 it took M&S 91.94% more days.

Trade Creditors Payment Period

The time taken by the business to pay their debtors or pay those from whom credit was taken is determined by the average settlement period. For the business a long average settlement period is more favorable as it is a free source of finance but it could also lead to loss of reputation and good will. Hence in order to maintain a good reputation and benefits a business has to maintain a ideal settlement period.

Trade Creditors Payment Period = Trade Payables/Credit Purchases * 365

Comparison:

For Debenhams in 2009 it took 7.14% less days more days to pay their creditors as compared to 2008.

For M&S in 2009 it took 7.9% more days to pay their creditors as compared to 2008.

In 2008 it took M&S 35.4% lesser days to repay their creditors as compared to Debenhams whereas in 2009 it took M&S 24.94% lesser days.

Solvency Ratios

Solvency ratios are also called gearing ratios. The extent to which a business can depend on its borrowing can be determined by this ratio. The capital for the business is made up of owner’s funds and borrowed funds. Although the borrowed fund comes with a burden of interest charges and repayment. In order to distinguish between M&S and Debenhams dependency on borrowing funds the Solvency ratios are used.

Gearing Ratio

Based on the theory of Atrill and McLaney “the gearing ratio measures the contribution of long-term lenders to the long-term capital structure of a business”. Hence these ratios are use to check the borrowed capital against the total capital of the business.

Gearing Ratio = long term liabilities / ( total equity + long term liabilities) * 100

Investment Ratios

In order to analyze the return on investor investment the Investment ratios are used. These ratios help the investor to choose the best company to invest in where the return are higher.

Price/Earning (P/E) Ratio

According to Teoh and Keong ”the price/earnings ratio relates the market value of a share to the earnings per share”. In this ratio the stock price is compared with the earnings per share. The ratio is one of the oldest measurements of an investment and a negative or 0 P/E ratio indicates that a company is not profitable.

P/E Ratio = Market Value Per Share/Earnings Per Share

Comparison:

For Debenhams in 2009 the price per earnings ratio grew by 46.62% compared to 2008.

For M&S in 2009 the price per earnings ratio grew by 16.5% compared to 2008.

In 2008 M&S has 45.07% greater price per share compared to Debenhams and in 2009 it was 15.27% higher.

Dividend Yield Ratio

Dividend yield ratio compares the current market value of the business against its cash returns from the company’s shares. It gives investors a clear idea about the company’s shares in comparison to other forms of investment.

Dividend Yield Ratio = (dividend per share/(1-t))/market value per share * 100

Comparison:

For Debenhams in 2009 dividend yield fell by 95.13% as compared to 2008.

For M&S in 2009 the dividend yield grew by 3.43% as compared to 2008.

In 2008 M&S had 54.96% lower dividend yield than Debenhams, whereas in 2009 M&S was 856.15% greater than Debenhams.

Effect of the Economic downturn on Debenhams

Debenhams’ sales performance through the past five years can be indicated best with the gross transactional values more than consolidated figures because the figures include income only from the third party concessions which do not hold as much importance as the company has set a strategy to magnify their own bought offer.

Discussed below are some of the values that help examining the financial performance of the company before and after the economic downturn.

The Gross sales in 2008 increased by 1.3% and consolidated sales went up by 3.6% as they increased their own-bought mix. The sales in the UK were under pressure throughout most of the year the worsening economic factors. The net debt of the company was high and remained so in 2008 at £994 million. The major concern for the company was to reduce the debt and therefore plans were put into place for 2008/09. These included cutting costs to 15 million pounds and scaling back their capital expenditure funds by 40 million pounds. They have also planned to reduce the product option in the stores by 13%. (Mintel) As the economic climate in the country started to deteriorate, Debenhams realized that the market confidence was decreasing due to their high debt and that they have to concentrate on their balance sheet to gain market share and maximize shareholder value.

FIGURE 51: Debenhams: Group financial performance, 2003/04-2007/08

Year to August

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Consolidated sales (£m excl. VAT)

1,903

1,609

1,708

1,774

1,839

Gross transaction values (£m excl. VAT)

1,903

2,087

2,193

2,306

2,336

Consolidated sales (€m excl. VAT)

2,803

2,351

2,502

2,628

2,485

Gross transaction values (€m excl. VAT)

2,803

3,050

3,212

3,416

3,157

Operating profit (£m)*

171

228

238

194

176

Operating margin (%)

9.0

14.2

13.9

10.9

9.6

Pre-tax profit (£m)

-30

88

62

113

106

* Before exceptional items

NB: IFRS figures from 2004/05

SOURCE: Company Accounts and Annual Report/Mintel

2008 started on a positive note in September but the company’s performance started to give way to the poor financial conditions in November and December. Their performance in the winter sales was satisfactory although it plunged again through spring. The fourth quarter saw a very bad situation in July which was squeezed between comparatively decent June and August as the market saw a major decline during the time. The cost prices increased substantially during the year due to increased prices of raw material, labour inflation and foreign exchange rates. The company managed to mitigate the pressure by hedging US dollar purchases forward by 12 to 18 months. Increase in the supplier prices have been avoided due to large scale manufacturing of the products in China. Keeping a considerable stable cost will benefit the company to overcome their debt which leads the discussion to 2009 and the performance of the company while coping with the downturn.

2009 as a financial year was one of the most difficult phases for the retail sector. The collapse of confidence in the banking sector in autumn 2008 sent shockwaves to the high street which is still not completely over. The financial year collided with the collapse of Lehman Brothers which occurred early 2009. Despite all the conditions, 2009 resulted in restructuring the balance sheet for Debenhams. The capital raised was increased manifold and their market share also increased strengthening their business model. The goals of increasing brand penetration, growing internet sales, and building an international footprint were progressed. The tough year had been foreseen and Debenhams strategized by changing their focus to cash margins rather than sales growth. The business was planned on lower sales and reduced levels of stock purchases. Debenhams also undertook the largest expansion of own bought space and introduced new brands. They opened five new stores in the UK and franchises in eight new countries increasing job opportunities and helping the market.

The financial year was characterized by a high degree of volatility arising out of wider economic factors and the ‘credit crunch’. Trading in the first half of the year was significantly affected by high profile collapses in the financial services sector which negatively influenced the already fragile consumer confidence. The positive effect of this situation was higher disposable income due to lower mortgage payments (lowest recorded interest rate) and also lower gas and electricity bills.

Despite the trading conditions, Debenhams delivered a strong financial performance in 2009. The gross transaction value; market share; gross margin and profit increased. The Gtv was 0.2% higher than the previous year at £2,339.7 million. The market share gains were achieved throughout the year. (Worldpanel fashion 24 weeks market share data to 13 September 2009 vs. 2008) The gross margin of the company increased by 70 points over 2008 which was driven by higher own bought sales and a focus on the drivers of cash profit. The costs were reduced by tight management of the stock and lower markdowns in sale periods. The company’s Hedging policy helped reduce the adverse effect of sterling’s deflation against the US dollar.

The profit before tax and Amortisation from capitalized bank fee was £125.2 million, a 13.7% increase over £110.1 million in 2008. Basic earnings per share (949 million average shares issued after the capital raising) of 10 pence compared with 9 pence in 2008 (860 million shares in issue). This also shows an improvement in the financial condition of the company. The cash flow from operating activities went down from 160.2 million pound sterling in 2008 to 156.5 million pound sterling in 2009.

The £100 million scheduled amortization payment of term loan was made from cash flow in May 2009 and in June; the company raised £303.8 million net through an open offer capital raising. The net debt at the yearend in August 2009 was an improvement over 2008 with £590.3 million over £403.7 million.

Condition and performance of the company if the downturn had not taken place

During the recession, the retail sector was hit badly due to the credit crisis, weak consumer spending, scarcity of finance, and investor risk aversion. The first major effect of the recession on Debenhams was losing out on investor’s confidence due to the large debt that they had accumulated. Although the company is managing to cover up on the high debt by paying off regular installments as mentioned before, if the downturn had not occurred, the company would have fared better in terms of investment and market value. This situation proved to be the main crisis faced by the company. In case this had not arisen, the share value would have increased substantially improving the investor’s confidence as they were performing comparatively well while tackling the economic conditions.

Debenhams’ strategy was to increase funds so that they are able to pay off the debt that was negatively influencing the share value. To overcome the situation and increase available funds, the company had to sell off shares worth £323 million. The company believed that the cash would help it take advantage of good deals that may emerge during the recession. This entire ordeal could have been avoided if the downturn had not taken place. The number of issued shares would have remained constant and the raising of funds would have taken place by default allowing the company to pay off debt according to the initial installment plan. Although this was a negative effect on the company, the positive outlook could be that the company was repaying the debt on fixed interest rates.

Debenhams managed to increase the gross margin by 70 points in 2009 which was triggered by a substantial increase in own bought stores. This was possible as the recession brought down the property rates by an average of 40% and the increase in funds resulted in their having dispensable funds to purchase real estate. The company now has a higher Gtv due to the own bought sales they experienced. If the downturn had not occurred, the company would not have been able to increase their assets. As the sales of the company increased during the years of the downturn, they were able to take advantage of the reduced prices and yet repay the debt to increase the market value of the company.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Debenhams is one of the largest retailers in the UK. The company is now expanding internationally and holds a very good reputation across the globe. They were in the same boat as all other retailers during the economic downturn with the spending power decreasing and sales shooting down. The major concern for the company during this period was the accumulated debt which was shown as £994 million. The recession made investors extremely wary and careful as enough losses were being experienced in other sectors such as airlines and hospitality which led to the investors selling their Debenhams shares and not investing in the company. The shareholder value of the company declined and the company faced the downturn. Debenhams reassured investors that they share an excellent relationship with banks and their debt is largely on fixed interest rates and that they would start concentrating on increasing funds and paying off the debt in regular installments. They were successful at this attempt as the total amount of accumulated debt in the latest annual report of 2010 is ---------------------

Own bought sales

International expansion

Appendix 1: Ratio Formulas:

Profitability ratios:

ROCE = Operating profit / (total assets – current liabilities)

Gross Profit / Sales Revenue = Gross Profit Margin Ratio

Liquidity Ratios:

Current assets / Current Liabilities = Current Ratio

Acid Test Ratio:

Quick Assets = Current assets – Inventory

Quick Assets/Current Liabilities = Acid Test Ratio

Efficiency ratios:

Stock Turnover Ratio = (inventories / sales) * 365

Total Asset Turnover Ratio = Net Sales / Total Assets

Trade Debtors Collection Period=Trade Receivables/Credit Sales Revenue * 365

Trade Creditors Payment Period = Trade Payables/Credit Purchases * 365

Solvency ratios:

Gearing Ratio = long term liabilities / ( total equity + long term liabilities) * 100

Investment ratios:

P/E Ratio = Market Value Per Share/Earnings Per Share

Dividend Yield Ratio = (dividend per share/(1-t))/market value per share * 100

Appendix 1: Ratio Formulas:

 

Operating profit before tax

Capital employed

Gross Profit

Revenue

Cost of goods sold

Sales

M&S

2008

1,211.30

5,172.10

3,486.80

9,022.00

5,535.20

9,022.00

2009

870.7

4,951.20

3,371.90

9,062.10

5,690.20

9,062.10

Deb

2008

176.1

1,339.00

267.6

1839.2

1571.6

1839.2

2009

182.2

1,524.30

264.9

1915.6

1650.7

1915.6

Trade recievables

Trade payables

Current assets

Current liabilities

Inventory

Total equity

M&S

2008

717.6

1069.8

1,181.70

1,988.90

488.9

1,964.00

2009

622

1186.6

1,389.80

2,306.90

536

2,100.60

Deb

2008

58.5

470.2

348.6

645.3

237.50

125.3

2009

68.5

458.6

537.1

611.5

270.90

425.3

Total assets

Non current liabilities

Share price

Dividend per share

Net profit

M&S

2008

7,161.00

3,208.10

387.00 p

22.50 p

821

2009

7,258.10

2,850.60

296.00 p

17.80 p

506.8

Deb

2008

1984.3

1213.7

48.80 p

6.30 p

77.1

2009

2135.8

1099

79.50 p

0.50 p

95.1

ROCE

Gross margin

Asset turnover

Stock turnover

Trade debtors collection period

Trade creditors payment period

M&S

2008

23.42%

38.65%

1.74 times

32.24 days

29.03 days

70.54 days

2009

17.59%

37.21%

1.83 times

34.38 days

25.05 days

76.11 days

Deb

2008

13.15%

14.55%

1.37 times

55.16 days

11.61 days

109.20 days

2009

11.95%

13.83%

1.26 times

59.90 days

13.05 days

101.40 days

Time

M&S

-24.91%

-3.72%

4.93%

6.65%

-13.71%

7.90%

Deb

-9.11%

-4.96%

-8.51%

8.60%

12.42%

-7.14%

Industry

2008

78.08%

165.62%

27.00%

-41.55%

150.06%

-35.40%

2009

47.12%

169.07%

45.64%

-42.60%

91.94%

-24.94%

Current ratio

Acid test

Gearing

Earnings per share

Price per earnings

Dividend yield

M&S

2008

59.41%

34.83%

62.03%

49.20 p

7.87

5.81%

2009

60.25%

37.01%

57.57%

32.30 p

9.16

6.01%

Deb

2008

54.02%

17.22%

90.64%

9.00 p

5.42

12.91%

2009

87.83%

43.53%

72.10%

10.00 p

7.95

0.63%

Time

M&S

1.40%

6.25%

-7.18%

-34.35%

16.50%

3.43%

Deb

62.59%

152.85%

-20.46%

11.11%

46.62%

-95.13%

Industry

2008

9.98%

102.32%

-31.57%

446.67%

45.07%

-54.96%

2009

-31.41%

-14.98%

-20.15%

223.00%

15.27%

856.15%

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