Financial Mail



Woolworths’ trading update cunningly ran for the 26 weeks to December 28, thus including the massive gorging of the Christmas festivity while leaving the Bacchanal of New Year’s Eve as a tasty little sweetener for the next period. Yet again the stout burghers of the beloved country did the company proud, and they may well be getting even stouter if this sort of spending carries on. Locally, food sales were up by 14,1%. Clothing and general merchandis­e lagged marginally behind, giving overall sales growth of 12,5%, comparable to the solid performanc­es announced by Shoprite and Massmart. But the really interestin­g part of the announceme­nt was the impact of Woolworths’ Australian acquisitio­n, David Jones. If you bung in the numbers from its treasury, then total sales rise by 55,2%, despite David Jones itself having a pretty flat period. David Jones has 39 department stores across Australia and a proud history stretching all the way back to 1838, when it was founded in Sydney by a Welshman. Confoundin­g any sceptics who might have suggested that all you could sell in Australia at the time was tunnelling equipment and the odd hacksaw, the company grew under the stewardshi­p of the founding family until it was bought by the Adelaide Steamship Company in 1980, borrowed sacks of loot and promptly went bust in the early 1990s. Things have improved, and Woolworths clearly thinks it is a business with potential, despite tough online competitio­n. Selling frocks to the matrons of Wollongong is a very different propositio­n from selling biltong to hungry Saffricans, but let’s hope all goes well. (See page 36.) Vital numbers on January 19 2015 Share price (R) Market cap (Rbn) P:e ratio Earnings yield (%) Dividend yield (%)

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