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IDS - revenue a touch higher, new CEO announced

IDS has reported first-quarter Group revenue of £3.0bn, up 0.3% year-on-year, and remains on track to return to

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International Distribution Services (IDS) has reported first-quarter Group revenue of £3.0bn, up 0.3% year-on-year, and remains on track to return to an underlying operating profit for the year.

Royal Mail saw revenue fall 4.0% to £1.8bn, in line with expectations. Volumes were down across the board but strong pricing in letters led to revenue growth from that segment.

GLS saw revenue rise 7.4% to £1.2bn, with volumes slightly better than expected up 4%. Automation and productivity improvements remain in focus to help offset margin pressures.

Martin Seidenberg has been appointed as Group CEO of IDS, he will be appointing CEOs for Royal Mail and GLS in due course.

The shares rose 1.2% in early trading.

View the latest International Distribution Services share price and how to deal

Our view

When you consider the turmoil that's plagued Royal Mail over the past year or so, with persistent strikes and lacklustre performance, it's still a little surprising to see updates with no major issues. But don't confuse the lack of any major issues with a business that's delivering on all cylinders, at this stage just one cylinder would be welcome - but we're not there yet.

The positive Union vote earlier in the month hopefully paves the way for a recovery and should all but extinguish the chances of further strikes for now - and so the real work begins.

There's a new man in the IDS hot seat who now needs to hire CEO's for both Royal Mail and GLS, while putting plans in place to return the former to profitability, which it expects to do over the next couple of years.

To be fair, there has been some decent early progress on the 'five-point-plan' to turn Royal Mail around. It's already delivered a 10k headcount reduction which should somewhat offset the increased costs coming due to the pay agreement with the union.

There's a lot to do, and the underlying business is under some pressure. Parcel volumes are down from the booming demand seen over the pandemic, and letters have long been in a structural decline. The day-to-day business is losing cash, and real estate disposals are on the cards to offset that outflow - rarely a good position.

It was unsurprising to see the board not recommend a final dividend back at full-year results. In our view, the prospective yield of 5.5% is unlikely to materialise.

There are some bright spots. We're encouraged that GLS is still growing revenue, and we believe this division has some long-term growth opportunities. Investment, which was previously stacked toward Royal Mail, will swing further in GLS's favour - the right move in our view. But challenging conditions mean margins are coming under pressure, something investment in automation is aiming to offset.

Management has previously hinted that splitting the two businesses is an option - that looks less likely now that Royal Mail has a path back to profitability but not something to rule out.

The agreement with CWU is a step in the right direction. Next up is filling the empty CEO seats and returning Royal Mail to profitability, all while maintaining progress at GLS. If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is. There are still substantial hurdles to overcome.

IDS key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

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Written by
Matt Britzman
Equity Analyst

Matt is an Equity Analyst on the share research team, providing up-to-date research and analysis on individual companies and wider sectors.

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Article history
Published: 20th July 2023