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Why Woolworths Limited is in a trading halt today

Shares in supermarket and liquor giant Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) entered a trading halt this morning in order to properly update the market on its home improvement joint venture business Masters, which it is considering divesting.

The trading halt is expected to last until tomorrow when the company releases its full-year 2016 results.

Woolworths announced the closure of Masters after it was unable to reverse many years of losses incurred attempting to rival Bunnings, which is owned by Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) – which also owns Coles.

Metcash Limited (ASX:MTS) is expected to make a play for Woolworths’ Home Timber and Hardware venture, although a number of potential buyers including a private equity firm are reportedly interested in acquiring the business.

It looks as though investors will be getting an update on the divestment process tomorrow, as well as the performance of Woolworths’ core grocery and liquor divisions in the form of its annual results. Although, after seeing Wesfarmers’ report this morning, it’s become obvious that Coles will be a tough act to beat for Woolworths’ new management team.

The media have also variously suggested that Woolworths could divest its other assets including petrol stations, hotels, and the Dan Murphy’s liquor warehouse. At least one commentator has suggested that the lack of love for Woolworths from the market could see shares bounce back to $30 sooner rather than later, but to my mind that will depend on how well management is able to right the ship.

Expect more coverage from us when Woolworths reports tomorrow.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O'Neill has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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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