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The list of announced news today is thin but there is a lot of stuff to chase today on a number of big stories.
The main announced story is Debenhams, which has come up with more bad news. Like-for-like sales declined by 4.5 per cent for the 26 weeks ended March 3, it said in a trading statement. The last seven weeks sound like they were even worse. The shares, which returned to market in May last year at 195p, are up a touch at 180p, but this may be because the poor figures are encouraging recent takeover speculation. We’ll take a look at what has been going wrong with this company.
Also, a gift of a story for a Saturday paper, Aga is returning £55m to shareholders. But take a close look at the press release: Aga has excluded the losses from the US business it is trying to sell from its headline profit number even though it has yet to sell it. Throw it in and a profit rise becomes a profit fall.
Rumour of the day: Unilever shares are rising on hopes that it might be the next target for activist shareholders after Cadbury. I don’t buy it, I’m afraid. As Andrew Wood from Bernstein points out in an overnight note - there are no quick fixes because it’s harder to split up than Cadbury, and three times the size, so harder to bid for the whole.