The company is planning for the Clothing & Home business to be severely constrained during lockdown and highly uncertain trading conditions in a prolonged exit period. In the absence of a clear basis for forecasting, its scenario planning and stress tests are based on materially subdued trading for the balance of 2020 in Clothing & Home. M&S benefits from having a strong food business and the transition to Ocado supply is on track to proceed in September to form a multi-channel food operation. However, Food trading has been adversely affected by lockdown due to the closure of cafes and slowdown in travel and some city centre locations.
The company has therefore taken steps to maximise liquidity for the likely duration of the crisis and recovery period beyond.
– Formal agreement has been reached with the lending syndicate of banks providing the £1.1bn revolving credit facility to substantially relax or remove covenant conditions for the tests arising in September 2020, March 2021, and September 2021.
– M&S has been confirmed as an eligible issuer under the UK Government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), providing significant further liquidity headroom.
– The agreement with the banks combined with other measures we have taken means that under our base planning scenarios and even more adverse assumptions, the business would have significant undrawn credit available for the 18 months ahead.
– As part of the planning for these measures and in order to provide for the uncertain outlook the board does not at this stage anticipate paying a dividend for the 2020/21 financial year, generating a cash saving of c.£210m.
The company is scheduled to report preliminary full year results on 20 May and will at that stage provide a further update on the very significant measures being taken to reduce costs and protect cash flow during the crisis period.
The crisis has created a very different way of working and rapid learning for the business at all levels. At the time of the results presentation the company will also outline measures being taken to accelerate the transformation programme and change ways of working permanently under its “never the same again” programme currently being prepared for implementation.