Woolworths’ trading update provided comfort that its core business in Australian Food is doing well, but Big W and NZ both have significant challenges that will take years and money to fix. Big W may close stores and NZ is more than three years away from decent margins in our view. The industry backdrop of government scrutiny and fading food inflation will mitigate expectations.
Woolworths 1Q24 sales revealed good growth in its Australian Food division but weak results in NZ and Big W. Woolworths Food division is the driver of group earnings and valuation and is likely to see a further moderation in sales trends over the next year. There is a risk that the positive mix effect on sales unwinds as consumers react to higher prices and income growth is squeezed.
Woolworths reported an impressive 6.6% comparable sales growth in Australian Food in 3Q23. While Woolworths sales growth is good there are some challenges. Its superior growth is more a function of eCommerce and new stores, which has additional costs. Moreover, growth rates are likely to slow as food inflation fades over the next 12 months. We expect good earnings growth in FY23e, but growth is likely to slow next year.
Metcash reported 1H22 EBIT up 14%. The growth was driven by a full-period contribution from Total Tools in Hardware. Total Tools still has a runway for further growth given imminent store acquisitions. The company has also fundamentally stabilised its market share in Supermarkets. Metcash has a much better business mix and industry structure than historically and as a result the shares should trade at a higher multiple.
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