Shares in Marks & Spencer dip 4% after finance chief resigns

‘Nothing sinister’ about Humphrey Singer exit – third finance director to quit in five years

Shares in Marks & Spencer closed almost 4 per cent lower on Monday after it confirmed the departure of its finance director over the weekend, with his resignation underlining the scale and duration of the retailer’s turnround.

The retail group, whose shares were demoted to the mid-cap FTSE 250 for the first time on Monday, said on Saturday that Humphrey Singer "has decided to leave the business" just 14 months after commencing the role. He is the third finance director to quit the group in five years.

One person with knowledge of Mr Singer’s departure said there was “nothing sinister” about it and that it was partly due to the intensive nature of the restructuring under way at M&S. “These are hard yards,” the person said, adding that not every executive wanted to be constantly immersed in such far-reaching and fast-paced change.

M&S is in the throes of a massive restructuring of the 135-year-old company in a bid to stem loss of market share in its key clothing business. The programme is being overseen by Archie Norman, a former management consultant with a formidable reputation for corporate turnrounds, and has involved the closure of dozens of stores, extensive management changes and the creation of a joint venture with Ocado to make M&S food available online for the first time.


 Reaction to resignation

“Humphrey is not the sort to go round tearing up trees,” said one person who has previously worked with him. “He is a solid number two [to a chief executive] and a good numbers man.”

Mr Singer did not respond to a request for comment while M&S declined to elaborate on its initial statement, in which chief executive Steve Rowe said Mr Singer had been "a huge asset" to the company.

Analysts said that another executive resignation so soon after the departure of Jill McDonald, previously head of clothing and home, did not bode well. Kate Calvert at Investec said that Mr Singer's departure "suggested that any financial benefits from the transformation programme remain elusive".

According to Bloomberg consensus forecasts, annual pretax profit at M&S will grow only slowly in the years ahead. Not until 2023 is it expected to exceed the £523 million (€591 million) reported for the year to March 2019.– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019.