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Former executive at online luxury fashion platform Farfetch is contender to become next boss of Asos










A former executive at Farfetch, the online luxury fashion platform, is a contender to become the next boss of Asos, the £2.3billion digital retailer. 

Andrew Robb, who left Farfetch in 2020, is among the candidates being considered as the successor to Nick Beighton. 

Under pressure: The choice of its next chief executive will be crucial for Asos, which has seen its shares in value halve amid investor unrest

Under pressure: The choice of its next chief executive will be crucial for Asos, which has seen its shares in value halve amid investor unrest

The choice of its next chief executive will be crucial for Asos, which has seen its shares in value halve amid investor unrest. 

Robb is among a number of candidates being interviewed, with Asos expected to name Beighton’s replacement in April when it releases its results to the market. 

Robb spent a decade at Farfetch, before which he had founded and run Cocosa. com, another fashion business. 

His current roles include acting as a senior adviser to Felix Capital, an early-stage investor in companies such as Farfetch and Deliveroo. 

Asos said last week that it would move its listing to London’s main stock market from the junior Aim exchange.

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MARKET REPORT: Asos is all the rage as online fashion giant unveils plans to move to main market of the London Stock Exchange










Online fashion giant Asos soared after unveiling plans to move to the main market of the London Stock Exchange.

The firm’s shares jumped 11.3 per cent, or 255p, to 2514p after it said it aims join the main market by the end of next month after 20 years on its junior counterpart, Aim.

The plans came as the group looks to draw in more investors following a difficult year that has seen its share price drop by over 50 per cent following a profit warning in October and the departure of chief executive Nick Beighton after six years at the helm.

Asos shares jumped 11.3%, or 255p, to 2514p after it said it aims join the main market by the end of next month after 20 years on its junior counterpart, AIM

Asos shares jumped 11.3%, or 255p, to 2514p after it said it aims join the main market by the end of next month after 20 years on its junior counterpart, AIM

The announcement was included in a trading update for the four months to the end of December, which saw the company’s sales rise 5 per cent year-on-year to £1.39billion despite supply chain issues and ‘volatile’ demand caused by the Omicron variant.

Despite the share price surge, analysts at broker Liberum cut their target price for Asos to 2300p from 3560p, saying the firm had ‘significant work’ to do this year.

The FTSE 100 ticked up 0.2 per cent, or 12.13 points, to 7563.85 while the FTSE 250 dipped 0.4 per cent, or 88.68 points, to 22,958.48.

Stock Watch – Card Factory

Shares in Card Factory plunged after the greeting cards retailer warned its profit margins will be hit by ‘significant’ pressure from inflation.

It now expects profits for its next financial year to be below expectations. It will be raising prices to reduce the damage.

The gloomy forecast overshadowed better than expected trading in the 11 months to the end of December, which saw it upgrade forecasts for its current year.

The shares tumbled 15.8 per cent, or 10p, to 53.5p.  

Market sentiment wobbled after US inflation hit a 40-year high on Wednesday, rekindling fears that price rises could threaten the global economic recovery.

Inflation worries weighed on major UK retailers and supermarkets, with Tesco down 0.9 per cent, or 2.55p, at 289.7p and Marks & Spencer falling 8 per cent, or 20p, to 233p despite upbeat trading updates.

Oilfield engineer Wood Group gushed to a five-month high after unveiling plans to sell part of its consultancy business.

The shares soared 20.5 per cent, or 40.8p, to 240p after the FTSE 250 group hoisted the ‘for sale’ sign over its Built Environment division, which helps governments and private companies assess environmental risks to buildings and infrastructure. It is expected to be worth around £2billion.

Blue-chip housebuilder Taylor Wimpey slipped 1.6 per cent, or 2.45p, to 159.35p after its largest shareholder reduced its stake. 

Los Angeles-based Capital Group, one of the world’s largest investment managers, dumped around 20.4m shares in the firm on Tuesday, reducing its stake to 4.5 per cent from just over 5 per cent.

Recruiters Hays added 2.3 per cent, or 3.4p, to 155.3p after posting a record performance in the three months to the end of December.

The group reported that net fees, its main source of revenue, had surged 37 per cent on a like-for-like basis amid.

Cycling and motoring retailer Halfords inched up 0.6 per cent, or 2p, to 364p after a boom in demand for MOTs helped to boost revenues in the three months to the end of December. 

Revenues in the period rose 10.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Pharma giant AstraZeneca reported data showing its Vaxzevria Covid-19 vaccine was effective as a booster against Omicron. 

The FTSE 100 firm highlighted results from an ongoing clinical trial that showed that when given as a third dose its jab caused an increased immune system response to Omicron as well as previous variants of the virus. The shares dipped by the close 0.4 per cent, or 30p, to 8449p.

Meanwhile Bakkavor, which provides prepared food to supermarkets and retailers, dipped 2.4 per cent, or 3p, to 123p as it flagged ‘unprecedented’ challenges during 2021 as it grappled with supply chain disruption, labour shortages and inflation.

Despite this, the firm reported revenues for the year to December 25 were up 4.4 per cent year-on-year, although it warned that the issues facing the business had ‘intensified’ in the final quarter of the year and continued into this year.

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Britain’s  biggest internet companies have been targeted by stock market traders in a £1billion bet their share price will fall. 

Fashion giant Asos is the latest to find itself in the firing line of short-sellers – who use financial contracts to borrow stock in order to gain if the share price falls – with nearly 8 per cent of its stock now on loan, according to research. 

The sudden increase in the number of short positions at Asos, which rose by a third in recent weeks, emerges amid a rout in technology stocks. 

Other stocks that have been targeted include Ocado – the largest short position by value at £703million, or 6 per cent of its stock – as well as Boohoo, AO World and Made.com. 

Squeezed: Asos faces supply issues and more returns with parties cancelled

Squeezed: Asos faces supply issues and more returns with parties cancelled

Deliveroo has also been dumped by investors. Last week its shares dipped below £1.95 – half its £3.90 flotation price of just nine months ago – though the size of short positions in Deliveroo is low at less than 0.2 per cent. 

Tech firms around the world, including Britain’s online shopping success stories, found favour during the pandemic. 

But Wall Street’s tech-heavy Nasdaq share index took a hammering last week in an investor rout that rocked markets

The big sell-off even hit stock-market darlings Apple, Amazon and Tesla. Energy companies and banks have gained: businesses that are regarded as less sensitive to interest rate rises, as the Federal Reserve dials down its emergency economic help in the US. 

It follows revelations in The Mail on Sunday last weekend that hedge funds and other traders had built up record short positions in The Hut Group, the owner of the LookFantastic and MyProtein brands. 

THG’s shares subsequently plummeted 10 per cent on Tuesday, the first trading day after the weekend, and are struggling to bounce back. 

In late September the number of Asos shares on loan was less than 1 per cent. The share price has dwindled 34 per cent since then. 

Though Asos shares have not fallen significantly in recent days, the data suggests an increasing number of traders believe they may fall further. 

Short-selling is controversial because critics say it can be used to engineer a quick drop in a share price. 

But short traders and research companies are increasingly seen as an indicator that there are fundamental issues with management strategy, a company’s prospects – or that a company is overvalued for other reasons. 

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority publishes individual short positions the first time they have reached more than 0.5 per cent of company stock at the end of a trading day. However, because only such big positions are declared, it is hard to pinpoint the exact volume of short positions, other than looking at figures for loaned stock. 

So while FCA data currently records that just one hedge fund, Marshall Wace, holds 1.5 per cent of Asos shares, the financial information provider IHS says its figure of almost 8 per cent from lending data provides a ‘close proxy’ for total short-selling volumes at the end of each trading day. 

Sources said traders believe Asos, a favourite among Britain’s fashion-conscious 20 and 30-somethings, faces a squeeze despite assurances from the board in November that it could double profit margins long-term as sales rise. 

It is without a chief executive after Nick Beighton left with immediate effect in October, adding to the uncertainty. 

Its rival Boohoo’s shares have fallen too – by 58 per cent since September. Last month, Boohoo halved sales growth forecasts for the year to February 28, 2022, and slashed profit guidance. 

The cost of materials and shipping has soared, more items have been returned than before the pandemic with parties cancelled due to Covid scares – especially last month – and competition from Chinese internet shop Shein grows. By contrast the fortunes of physical shops have rebounded. 

Tesco shares are at their highest since before an accounting scandal in 2014, while Marks & Spencer’s share price has soared to levels not seen for almost three years.

At just 0.23 per cent, the number of M&S shares on loan also appears to suggest short-selling traders believe its turnaround is bearing fruit. 

This week will see market updates from Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, JD Sports and Asos, among others. WH Smith, AO World, SuperGroup and Hotel Chocolat will report the following week. 

Next on Thursday said trading had been better than expected and predicted it would reap record profits this year. 

It said full-price sales were 20 per cent higher in the festive period than the comparative weeks in 2019, before the pandemic began.

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