Ted Baker inventory overstatement figure grows to £58m
Ted Baker hasn’t updated on its Christmas trading but the company did deliver an unwelcome update on a closely watched subject on Wednesday — the independent review of its inventory overstatement.
For those who don’t know, the under-pressure retailer had announced back in December that its new-to-the-company finance chief had uncovered an inventory overstatement that could have been between £20 million and £25 million.
Well, the bad news is that the review has revised that figure upwards — to a painful £58 million.
As previously explained, the overstatement is a non-cash item and relates to prior years, not the current trading year.
The company didn’t give any more details but the mistake is clearly a major headache for the firm (as well as an embarrassment to its auditors KPMG, who had previously said any mis-statements were too small to affect the firm’s accounts).
It’s yet another piece of bad news in a succession of negative stories that Ted Baker has seen. These started with slowing sales and moved on to the ‘hug-gate’ scandal that saw founder and CEO Ray Kelvin stepping down. After that we’ve also seen sales worsening, Kelvin’s replacement Lindsay Page also stepping down, along with its executive chairman David Bernstein. The company is now run by Rachel Osborne, who only joined last autumn as CFO, but after uncovering the accounts mis-statement found herself installed as acting CEO just before Christmas.
The whole sorry story has had a devastating effect on Ted Baker’s market value. Its shares had changed hands for as much as 3,485p each back in December 2015 when it was seen as a well-run, almost-unstoppable company. But its self-inflicted problems (combined with the post-Brexit vote and internet-driven issues UK retail has endured) saw those same shares trading at 319p, less than a tenth of their previous value, at market close on Tuesday.
First thing on Wednesday, as investors digested the latest news, the shares fell again, to 310p. That put the market value of the entire company at less than £140 million, compared to around £1.5 billion four years ago.
But while that’s bad news for shareholders, it does perhaps make a buyout offer more likely. There has been widespread speculation that Ray Kelvin, who remains its biggest shareholder, could try to take the company private again, allowing him to try to fix its problems away from the media spotlight that listed businesses have to deal with.
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