HMV may sell live music division as sales fall again

 

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HMV has said it may sell its live music division to raise funds, as it battles with another drop in sales.

Like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of shop closures, were down 11.6% in the 26 weeks to October versus a year ago, the struggling music and electronics retailer reported.

Including the cost of store closures, HMV made a pre-tax loss of £45.7m.

HMV's shares fell 12.1% on the news. The company's stock has fallen by almost 90% since December last year.

In its results the group confirmed that "constructive discussions" with its banks over its debts were continuing.

Debt

HMV reported net debt of £163.7m, up from £151.6 in the same period last year.

"The economic environment and trading circumstances create material uncertainties, which may cast significant doubt on the Group's ability to continue as a going concern in future," the statement warned.

However the firm said it was making progress restructuring the group.

It said that in order to strengthen the group's finances, its live music division, HMV Live, would now be subject to a strategic review, which may lead to a sale.

The live music division made a profit of £3.4m in the 26 weeks to October, up from £1.5m during the same period last year.

HMV is attempting to refocus its business by offering more technology products, such as MP3 players, headphones and tablet computers, as well as live music and event ticketing.

Analysis

The good news about HMV is that it is going backwards slower than it was.

In the second quarter of the year, underlying or like-for-like sales from continuing operations fell 8.6%, which compares with minus 13% in the first three months of the year.

It reported like-for-like technology sales in recently refitted stores were up 42% since the refits.

The company said it expected the impact of the store refits to be shown in its next set of results, as the work to convert stores took place towards the end of 2011.

Falling sales

It also confirmed the closure of 15 UK stores as part of its attempts to reduce costs.

The firm said like-for-like sales in the seven weeks to 17 December - which includes most of the critical pre-Christmas period - had fallen particularly sharply, down 13.2%.

However it said that this excluded a big rise in sales on the weekend of the 17 December.

"Like all consumer-facing companies we are facing tough trading conditions, but we continue to push forwards through this period," said chief executive, Simon Fox.

"We remain well prepared for the key trading days ahead."

In June, the firm agreed a £220m refinancing deal with its banks and sold the Waterstone's book chain and its Canadian arm.

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