Royal Mail stock up, letters down: This is how the City reacted

 
Oliver Gill
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Royal Mail plans to shuts pension scheme on 31 March 2018

It has been over three and a half years since Royal Mail floated on the London Stock Exchange.

And today the FTSE 100 firm revealed market beating full-year figures.

Shares bounced almost four per cent in early trades before falling back. They are currently trading up around 1.5 per cent, at the highest level since early January.

Revenue from Royal Mail's largest division, letters, fell five per cent to £4.3bn as letter volumes dropped by six per cent. UK parcel revenues fared better, up three per cent to £3.3bn.

Read more: Royal Mail shares rise as overseas division comes to the rescue

But overall UK profits slumped 11 per cent, this was despite reducing its pre-transformation cost base.

Overseas was a different matter.

Its third largest segment increased revenues by nine per cent to £2.5bn. Operating profit jumped from £117m to £164m.

Here's how City analysts reacted.

Earnings ahead of forecasts

Earnings per share were 44.1p, compared with consensus expectations of 40.5p. This could explain the early jump in the stock's price when markets opened.

But Gerald Khoo, an analyst at Liberum said: "The results for the year to March were slightly ahead of our forecasts and consensus, although we note that consensus numbers had been cut steadily through the year."

UK parcels

The growth in the UK parcels division has been underpinned by the growth in internet shopping.

Read more: Royal Mail is closing its pension scheme - but a third way is possible

"Technology is also driving higher parcel volumes, as more shoppers turn to their mobile devices to order goods, rather than strolling down the high street. Royal Mail is well positioned to capitalise on this trend," said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf.

However, Khalaf warned, Royal Mail "faces stiff competition from the likes of Amazon, who are using the gig economy to deliver parcels without all the costs of more traditional employment".

Signed, sealed, delivered... not so much anymore

Khoo said: "The decline is letters volumes is expected to be at the worse end of the long-term range (down 4-6 per cent)."

Pensions

Royal Mail is facing a testing 12 months as it plans to shut its final salary pension scheme. (For everything you need to know about Royal Mail and pensions, click here)

With negotiations hanging over the firm, "uncertainties" remain according to Damian Brewer, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

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In summary

Laith Khalaf...

Royal Mail has posted a solid set of results against a challenging backdrop... investors will be pleased to see a decent rise in the full year dividend

Gerald Khoo...

We remain concerned about the intensity of competition in the UK parcels market, and there are still risks in agreeing new pension arrangements.

​Damian Brewer...

We see likely better investor interest to come as key wage/pension issues get settled

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