Belfast Telegraph

Argos parent group issues warning as profits fall

By Holly Williams

Argos owner Home Retail Group issued a profits warning after sales at the chain fell amid "mixed" Christmas trading. The Argos parent group, which on Wednesday night revealed talks to sell its DIY arm Homebase and rejected a takeover approach for the wider business from Sainsbury's in November - posted a 2.2% fall in sales at established Argos stores for the 18 weeks to January 2.

There are just under 20 Argos and nine Homebase stores in Northern Ireland.

Despite a better performance from the Homebase chain, where like-for-like sales increased by 5%, Home Retail said group underlying profits were expected to be at the bottom end of City expectations for the year.

John Walden, chief executive of the wider company, admitted it had been a "very eventful" time for the group, after it rebuffed the bid approach from Sainsbury's before Christmas and revealed advanced discussions over a £340m sale of Homebase.

It said on Wednesday that it was finalising sale documents for the DIY chain with Australian retail giant Wesfarmers after the pair opened negotiations in September.

Homebase has more than 270 stores, employs around 18,000 staff and turned over around £1.5bn last year.

The Christmas trading woes at Argos come at a bad time for Home Retail Group as Sainsbury's considers its next move in the takeover saga.

The company said that it expected group underlying profits to be at the bottom end of expectations for between £92m and £118m for the year to the end of February.

Belfast Telegraph