Stuart Machin UPS Citi Stuart Machin

Marks & Spencer’s recovery finally looks like the real deal

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M arks & Spencer over the past 20 years has been a tale of false dawns for its shareholders. Every apparent advance has been followed by a declaration from the boardroom that even vaster sums must be spent on overhauling warehouses, improving stores, closing stores, investing in food logistics, revamping clothing, or something else.

It is, therefore, dangerous to say the long struggle against obsolescence has succeeded. But that’s the way it looks.Wednesday’s annual pre-tax profit numbers depended on how you cut them: up a fifth in statutory form; down by 8% at £482m in “adjusted” variety; and better at an “underlying” level if one ignores the Covid freebie on business rates a year ago.

In essence, though, all versions were a couple of notches above City forecasts.More significantly, management thinks it can get within £10m of the same underlying outcome this year, which is several grades above previous expectations.

The shares gained 12% in a falling market and, at 184p, now stand at their highest level for 15 months. New-ish chief executive Stuart Machin’s boast about” “trading momentum” looks fair.How’s it been done?

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