Today I am explaining why Tescos (LSE: TSCO) financial strength continues to sink.
Pensions peril adds to Tescos woes
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper at the weekend, independent pensions guru John Ralfe commented that Tesco is likely to have to pay 300m every year for the next 10 years in order to plug its gargantuan pensions shortfall.
According to the report, Tescos current pensions gap stood at around 3.2bn as of year concluding March 2014, a figure which the supermarket failed to address as in-house assessments into the size of the shortfall is not expected to conclude until May.
The retailer has until June to detail the size of the hole, as well as how it plans to solve the problem. Ralfe said that he expects the figure for fiscal 2015 to match that of the previous year, although of course any uptick could herald further pressure on the Cheshunt-based firm.
Is the balance sheet about to break?
Tesco has seen the balance sheet come under heavy fire during the past two years as consumers have flocked to its competitors in droves. Budget chains such as Aldi and Lidl have proved increasingly attractive to savvy shoppers in the post-recessionary landscape, while premium outlets such as Waitrose are also dragging more affluent buyers from Tescos doors.
On top of this, Tesco has also suffered a number of PR own goals during the past year from the horsemeat scandal of early 2013 through to ongoing pressure over the squeeze they place on suppliers which has made it even more unpalatable to much of its previously-loyal customer base.
Tescos October interims underlined this slide, with a 4.4% decline in group revenues during April-September driving trading profit an eye-watering 41% lower, to 937m. As a result Tesco saw net debt rise to a colossal 7.5bn as of the end of September, up from 7bn at the same point last year.
The business remains determined to pull back customers through a programme of significant price cuts across the store, although these measures seem destined to underwhelm as they still fail to match the prices offered by the discounters.
And this expensive scheme puts extra stress on Tescos already wafer-thin balance sheet. The business was forced to slash the interim dividend by 75%, and has also significantly curtailed capital expenditure, and group outlay collapsed by more than a fifth to around 1bn in the first half, as a result of severe financial strength.
Is a cash call on the cards?
And with rumours doing the rounds that Tesco could be forced into a humiliating rights issue sooner rather than later, in my opinion the fallen grocery giant is a perilous stock pick for both growth and income investors.
Given these concerns, I strongly recommend investors check out this brand new and exclusive report that singles out a raft of FTSE 100 winners primed to deliver stunning shareholder returns.
Our “5 Dividend Winners To Retire On” wealth report highlights a selection of incredible stocks with an excellent record of providing juicy shareholder returns. Among our picks are top retail, pharmaceutical and utilities plays that we are convinced should continue to provide red-hot dividends. Click here to download the report — it’s 100% free and comes with no further obligation.
Get FREE Issues of The Motley Fool Collective
Get straightforward advice on whats really happening with the stock markets, direct to your inbox. Help yourself with our FREE email newsletter designed to help you protect and grow your portfolio wealth.