Brexit wipeout: Bunnings’ $700 million investment in Homebase worth “zero”, says analyst

Bunnings

By Rod Myer

Bunnings’ $700 million investment in the UK hardware group Homebase is essentially worthless and should be written down to zero as a result of the vote by Britons to leave the the EU, according to a leading analyst.

“In our view, it will be many years before Homebase generates any or reliable profit and hence we believe the initial investment Wesfarmers made ($700 million) has a zero value,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BOA-ML) analyst David Errington wrote in a note to his clients last week.

The note, first reported on News.com.au, predicted that the economic fallout resulting from the Brexit vote would bring big losses to Bunnings’ parent company Wesfarmers, which has pledged to invest $1 billion over five years in the rundown Homebase hardware chain.

“If Wesfarmers elects to push on with its plans to spend $1 billion in restructuring the business (which we believe would add little to the opportunity of Homebase to return to profits), the capital lost to shareholders would grow up to $4 billion,” the note said.

Errington has been a trenchant critic of the Homebase purchase, announced at the same time Woolworths called time on its Masters hardware chain, which had been driven out of the industry by Bunnings after $700 million in losses.

Bunnings plans to convert the languishing Homebase into a Bunnings style operation by building warehouse stores, mainly on the sites of 250 existing Homebase businesses over five years.

We’re in for the long haul

Bunnings chief executive John Gillam told The New Daily that Bunnings was in the UK for the long haul and the collapse of the pound as a result of Brexit would not effect the plan.

“We knew of the Brexit risk when we planned the investment and moved money into pounds to fund the acquisition and investment. So we have a natural hedge against currency movements,” he said.

Bunnings stands by it Homebase plans, he said. Gillam believes Errington’s bearish view on the UK business is based on rent estimates for Hombase that are 33% higher than reality.

Brexit will hit hardware sales 

The problem faced by Bunnings is that the UK economy is predicted to go into a recession as a result of Brexit, as financial markets tumble, jobs are lost and consumer confidence falls. Investment bank Goldman Sachs has predicted a “mild recession” for early 2017 and BOA-ML is also bearish, Errington said.

Nicki Hutley, chief economist with consultancy group Urbis, told The New Daily: “I think one per cent could come off UK economic growth in the year ahead. It could be even larger.”

As economic growth comes off, the home improvement market that drives the Bunnings model will be hit, Errington said.

During the most recent Euro crisis in 2010/11 “the home and garden market contracted by around 0.5 per cent. Interestingly, this had the effect of reducing EBIT (earnings) by around 25 per cent for Homebase and B&Q (another UK hardware group),” he said.

Hutley said the task for foreign companies investing in the UK could become more difficult.

“Absolutely – if confidence falls as expected then it will have an effect,” she said.

It’s not just consumer confidence that is at risk from the Brexit vote.

“HSBC (a major bank) has said it will move 1000 jobs from London to Paris if Britain leaves the EU,” Hutley said.

The BBC has reported that US investment bank Morgan Stanley could move 2000 jobs from London to Frankfurt or Dublin if Brexit is completed. Germany’s Deutsche Bank has commented that a Brexit will reduce London’s status as an international financial centre.

Rod Myer is money editor at The New Daily, where this article was first published

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Robert Latchford
Robert Latchford
4 years ago

Last time I checked bricks and mortar , physical goods were worth more than ‘fiat’ currency. When the system breaks down do you want locks , tools , chicken feed , fertilizer and seeds or that worthless paper that this analyst is being paid?

Rohan
Rohan
4 years ago

Hang on, the pound bounced back within a week of BREXIT. It’s trading higher now against the AUD and USD than it was before BREXIT. Did the Jurno even check those facts before publishing?

Seriously, If I can google it within 20 seconds, so can anyone else.

FeFiFoFum
FeFiFoFum
4 years ago

“We knew of the Brexit risk when we planned the investment and moved money into pounds to fund the acquisition and investment. So we have a natural hedge against currency movements,” he said.

Say what?
So if the pound is collapsing due to Brexit, then surely its effectively costing them more?
It would have cost less dollars to purchase Homebase today than when they did purchase, so surely the value of the business has already diminished based on their original cost.

peternt
peternt
4 years ago

It sounds like Goldman Sachs let the work experience kid write a report on this.
Just because of Brexit ( which may not happen for another 2 years yet ) nobody is going to be doing any work on their houses ? Nobody is going to build a house or renovate ?
Nobody is going to break a window, need to replace a washer, need a new lawnmower ?

Syb
Syb
4 years ago

Homebase was closing down in Newington Edinburgh last year……the building was to be demolished and replaced by MORE DENSE STUDENT ACCOMMODATION that ALL the locals PROTESTED AGAINST due to increased population in the area and also the fact that Many people actually needed the business there.
So did Bunnings own this store last year and did they Close it Down?

Peter plaisted
Peter plaisted
4 years ago

Just remember that BUNNINGS supplied the Jarrah wooden sleepers for British Rail and the London Underground over a 100 years ago. Bunnings will not fail.