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WH Smith launches restructuring to cut 1500 jobs

Consultation is now beginning on the proposed restructuring and redundancies, which is expected to cost £15-19mln

WH Smith PLC -

WH Smith PLC (LON:SMWH) could cut up to 1,500 jobs as part of a new review of its store estate as it says the recovery has been slow for its travel facing business. 

Group sales have improved, with the year-on-year decline diminishing from 83% in April, to 82% in May, 69% in June and down 57% in July — which is better than the 80-85% assumption touted by the FTSE retailer in April.

But, while the reopening of its stores in stations and airports has seen 246 of the largest outlets now trading, passenger numbers remain low.

Since June, 575 stores in the High Street arm have rolled up their shutters, though footfall in Britain’s town and city centres remains down significantly on last year.   

“As a result of the impact on passenger numbers and lower footfall on the UK high street, we have taken the difficult decision to review our store operations across both our Travel and High Street businesses,” the company said. 

Consultation is now beginning on the proposed restructuring and redundancies, which is expected to cost £15-19m.

“While we are mindful of the continuing uncertainties that exist, we are a resilient and versatile business,” said chief executive Carl Cowling. 

“The operational actions we are taking along with the financing arrangements that are in place, put us in a strong position to navigate this time of uncertainty and we are well positioned to benefit in due course from the recovery of our key markets.”

Shares climbed 4% on Wednesday morning but were near flat by midday at 993.15p.

The retailer is "making a good fist of difficult conditions, has great long-term fundamentals and liquidity is not an issue", said analysts at Peel Hunt.

"However, forecast momentum is almost completely driven by news on C-19. Today’s update is solid enough in current trading terms (High Street much better than feared), but management’s view is increasingly that the recovery will be U-shaped, especially in Travel. That means downgrades to FY21 and FY22 and a lower likelihood that the shares will see historic levels soon."

The analysts still see the shares as a 'buy' for longer-term investors but said they "may have to roll with the punches thrown by C-19 newsflow though".

   --Adds broker comment--

Quick facts: WH Smith PLC

Price: 1003.8425 GBX

Market: LSE
Market Cap: £1.31 billion

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