M&S suffers fresh blow as finance chief quits

Marks & Spencer is facing growing pressure from discount chains. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 September 2019

M&S suffers fresh blow as finance chief quits

  • The company has built up a well-regarded food business that seeks to combine convenience and indulgence

BENGALURU: Marks & Spencer Group said on Saturday its chief financial officer, Humphrey Singer, was stepping down after little more than a year, a further setback as the retailer is demoted from Britain’s leading share index.

Singer, who joined from electricals retailer Dixons Carphone in 2018, will work with CEO Steve Rowe on the succession process, the company said.

Marks & Spencer, a 135-year-old firm that is one of the biggest names in British retail, has struggled to compete on clothing with the likes of Zara and H&M, and will be relegated from London’s FTSE 100 index of leading shares with effect from Sept. 23 because of its declining market valuation.

The company has built up a well-regarded food business that seeks to combine convenience and indulgence.

This now accounts for more than half of its annual revenue, but margins have come under pressure from the march of discount chains, and M&S has reported three straight drops in annual profits.

“After 18 months of working with Steve to lead the transformation strategy and rebuild the finance function, I have decided that now is the right time to move on,” Singer was quoted as saying in a company statement.

Singer’s exact departure date has not yet been decided and he will continue with his responsibilities until it is confirmed, the retailer said.

“Humphrey has been a huge asset to the business ... I look forward to continuing to work with him as we search for his successor,” CEO Rowe said.

Singer’s abrupt departure follows the sacking of clothing, home and beauty managing director Jill McDonald in July, after which Rowe took direct control of the division.

In its latest turnaround plan, M&S has been closing weaker stores, revamping ranges and investing in online sales.

Its boldest move yet was striking a £1.5 billion joint venture with online grocer Ocado to give M&S a home delivery service for food. 


IMF warns of Asia’s darkening growth outlook as trade war bites

Updated 18 October 2019

IMF warns of Asia’s darkening growth outlook as trade war bites

  • The IMF cut its economic growth forecast for the Asia-Pacific region to 5.0 percent for this year and 5.1 percent for 2020
  • It also slashed China’s growth forecast to 6.1 percent for this year and 5.8 percent for 2020
WASHINGTON: Asian nations face heightening risks to their economic outlooks as the US-China trade war and slumping Chinese demand hurt the world’s fastest-growing region, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.
In its World Economic Outlook report on Tuesday, the IMF cut its economic growth forecast for the Asia-Pacific region to 5.0 percent for this year and 5.1 percent for 2020 — the slowest pace of expansion since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.
“Headwinds from global policy uncertainty and growth deceleration in major trading partners are taking a toll on manufacturing, investment, trade, and growth,” Changyong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific department, said during a news conference at the IMF and World Bank fall meetings.
“Risks are skewed to the downside,” he said, calling on policymakers in the region to focus on near-term fiscal and monetary policy steps to spur growth.
“The intensification in trade tensions between the US and China could further weigh on confidence and financial markets, thereby weakening trade, investment and growth,” he said.
A faster-than-expected slowdown in China’s economic growth could also generate negative spillovers in the region, as many Asian countries have supply chains closely tied to China, he added.
The IMF slashed China’s growth forecast to 6.1 percent for this year and 5.8 percent for 2020, pointing to the impact from the trade conflict and tighter regulation to address excess debt.