Royal Mail profits half as cost cutting runs behind schedule
Half-year profits at Royal Mail have tumbled after the company failed to cut costs as quickly as hoped. Pre-tax profit more than halved to £33m for the six months to 23 September despite a 1% rise in revenues to just over £4.9bn.
Revenue from its GLS European parcel operations was up 9%, offsetting a 1% fall in the UK parcels and letters.
Chief executive Rico Back said Royal Mail had put a “range of actions” in place to improve performance.
“There will be a greater emphasis on how we connect customers, companies and countries through our domestic and international businesses. There will be a clearer focus on financial performance and management accountability,” he said.
Growth in online shopping helped drive a 6% rise in revenues for the UK parcels business, but total revenue from letters was down 7%. Adjusted pre-tax profit was down 27% to £183m.
Royal Mail warned on profits at the start of October in an unscheduled update after revealing that cost savings would be just £100m this year rather than the £230m forecast, sending shares down almost a fifth.
The company reiterated its commitment to the £100m target for the 2018-19 financial year and Mr Back said the management team was “focused on pulling all the short and medium-term levers at our disposal to improve our performance”.
It said it would update investors on its strategy in March next year.
“This is a great company with great brands. We have, by far, the best delivery network in the UK: our ability to deliver most of our letters and parcels together is a major asset,” said Mr Back, who took over from Moya Green as chief executive earlier this year.
“Royal Mail has been in existence in one form or another for over 500 years. We have transformed ourselves many times before.”
However, analysts at Liberum said the firm faced “significant structural challenges with little visibility on how the business might be turned around”.
They maintained a “sell” recommendation on the shares with a target price of just 250p.
After initially rising, Royal Mail’s shares fell 3% to 338p on Thursday.
The shares have nearly halved since peaking at 632p in May, prompting some Royal Mail staff to claim they have been short-changed.
Some 145,000 postal workers have waited five years to sell the free shares they were given at the time of privatisation without being taxed. The shares were priced at 330p when the company floated.