Woolworths Limited slashes dividend and posts $973 million loss

Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) shares fell 4% today following the announcement of its half-year financial results.

In the 27-week period ended 3 January 2016, Woolworths announced a 1.4% rise in revenue to $32.22 billion and a loss of $972.7 million, down from a profit of $1.98 billion in the prior corresponding period.

A $3.25 billion impairment was incurred. A total of $1.9 billion of the impairment is related to Woolworths’ Home Improvement business, including the Masters and Home Timber & Hardware brands. The impairment was the primary catalyst behind Woolworths’ statutory loss.

Indeed, following its decision to wind-up its Home Improvement operation, Woolworths said the impairment includes $1.46 billion for property, $1.24 billion for onerous lease expenses and exit costs, and $547 million for inventory impairments.

Every one of Woolworths’ operating divisions reported a fall in profit, with the all-important Australian Food, Liquor and Petrol business reporting operating profit of $1.29 billion, down from $1.89 billion.

Masters reported a 23.4% jump in sales but widened its loss from $112 million to $137 million.

The company’s board declared its intention to pay a fully franked dividend of 44 cents per share, down from 67 cents per share in the prior corresponding period.

Perhaps one highlight from today’s report is the company’s announcement of its decision to appoint Brad Banducci as CEO. Mr Banducci is the current Managing Director of Woolworths Food Group.

“We undertook a rigorous international search process to find the best person to rebuild the Woolworths business and return it to sustainable growth,” Chairman, Gordon Cairns, said. “While there were several strong candidates, the Board was unanimous that Brad was the strongest of the field.”

Mr Banducci said, “I am a true believer in the potential of Woolworths and I am excited about our future.”

“My goal as CEO will be to recapture the spirit of innovation and customer focus right across the business, and to grow a culture where our people once again feel a strong ownership of the business.”


Looking ahead, the company said it’s making progress in rebuilding its brand despite the poor financial performance. It said it is not anticipating a significant improvement in supermarket sales throughout the second half, with price deflation likely to continue.

It said the EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) margin in supermarkets would be around 5%, reflecting seasonally lower margins in the second half, transformation efforts and deleveraging.

Foolish takeaway

It’s hard to find positives in today’s results. Personally, I believe the decision to remove the Home Improvement division was myopic — and extremely costly. Indeed, it removes a significant long-term growth opportunity and strategic asset. Of course, Masters was run poorly, but Big W would’ve made a far better divestment, in my opinion.

As a result, I have little faith in Woolworths’ ability to use its cash savings from recent initiatives for long-term shareholder advantage.

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Motley Fool contributor Owen Raszkiewicz does not have a financial interest in any company mentioned. Owen welcomes -- and encourages -- your feedback on Google+, LinkedIn or you can follow him on Twitter @ASXinvest.

Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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