Interactive Investor

ii view: should investors check in at WH Smith?

4th July 2023 16:00

by Keith Bowman from interactive investor

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This UK high street icon is now very much a business of two divisions. We assess prospects. 

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Third-quarter trading update to 27 May

  • Travel related revenue up 31%
  • High Street related revenue up 2%
  • Total group revenue up 23%

ii round-up:

WH Smith (LSE:SMWH) is a retailer selling newspapers, books, and other convenience products. 

It operates through the two divisions of Travel related stores both in the UK and overseas and UK High Street outlets. 

Other brands include its InMotion branded technology related stores, often sat aside its Travel related stores at airports both in the UK and internationally, and its online stores Funkypigeon.com and Cult Pens.  

For a round-up of this latest trading update announced on 31 May, please click here

ii view:

Tracing its history back to 1792, WH Smith today operates more than 1,700 stores and a series of websites. It competes against other convenience product providers such as supermarket operators Tesco (LSE:TSCO) and Sainsbury (J) (LSE:SBRY), and Greggs (LSE:GRG). Travel related stores across the UK, North America and the rest of the world generate its biggest slug of sales at around two-thirds, with UK High Street outlets making up the balance. Group strategy includes opening new travel related stores largely overseas. 

For investors, the tough economic backdrop including a cost-of-living crisis for consumers globally cannot be overlooked. Technological advances now offer alternatives to travel such as zoom meetings, with newspapers now all available online. Costs generally for businesses remain elevated, the retailing of books remains highly competitive with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) a core player, while currency headwinds warrant consideration given its growing overseas operations. 

On the upside, a new store opening programme is ongoing, including for its InMotion technology stores, and its diversity of both product type and geographical location is not to be overlooked. The dividend payment was previously restarted following its suspension under the pandemic, costs and its product categories remain a management focus, while consumer demand for travel has recovered following the Covid pandemic. 

With management outlook comments optimistic in tone, and the consensus analyst estimate of fair value standing at over £19 per share, scope for longer-term positivity looks to persist. 

Positives: 

  • Product and geographical diversity
  • Growing store numbers

Negatives:

  • Uncertain economic outlook
  • Overseas ops bring currency volatility 

The average rating of stock market analysts:

Buy

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