DIY disaster sends Australia's Woolworths to record loss

Woolworths store Image copyright AFP

Woolworths, Australia's biggest supermarket chain, has reported a record annual loss of A$1.2bn (£690m), following its decision to quit the DIY market.

The company made a profit of A$2.1bn in the previous year.

The results were hit by a A$1.8bn write off from quitting its Masters hardware joint-venture with US firm Lowe's.

The retailer issued a series of profit warnings last year amid intense competition in the grocery market.

The financial year had been one of "unprecedented change for Woolworths", said chief executive Brad Banducci. The company's decisions had had a "material impact" on the results but were "necessary to begin the rebuilding of Woolworths", he added.

"We are seeing early signs of progress as we work to restore our competiveness and improve our culture in Australian food. We have also addressed significant issues facing the Group with the decision to exit Home Improvement and decisive action taken on BIG W [discount department store chain] to reposition the business," he said.

Mr Banducci took over earlier this year when his predecessor stepped down over the decision to abandon the controversial hardware venture.

Reform plans

On Wednesday, Woolworths announced it was quitting three of its home improvement businesses.

That decision is part of Mr Banducci's reform plans following on from February's announcement of the company's first half-year loss in 23 years.

Home Timber & Hardware is to be sold to smaller competitor Metcash.

All the Masters hardware stores will close by December and the properties sold to investor group Home Consortium.

Woolworths plans to concentrate on its supermarket business so it can compete more effectively against rival Coles, as well as discounters such as Aldi and Lidl - both relatively recent entrants to the Australian market.

"We expect trading conditions to remain highly competitive in (the coming financial year) but are confident that we have a clear plan and set of priorities," said Mr Banducci.

Shares in Woolworths jumped by more than 7% following the announcement.

Woolworths said it would pay a final dividend of 33 cents, down from 72 cents the previous year.

Australia's Woolworths has no links with chains of the same name in the US or South Africa, or the defunct UK retailer.

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