French Connection reports loss for fifth year running

Struggling fashion chain French Connection has reported a loss for the fifth year running.

Its pre-tax loss increased to £5.3m last year compared with £3.5m in 2015.

The company, which is under pressure from investors to make top level changes, also said revenue fell 6.7% last year to £153.2m.

Last month, major investor Schroders lost patience and sold its chunk, enabling Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley to pick up an 11% stake.

Another major investor, Gatemore Capital Management, is agitating for change.

The company was founded in 1972 by chief executive and chairman Stephen Marks, who owns 41% of the business. However, for one person to hold the top two posts at a company is not seen as good management practice.

Liad Meidar, managing partner at Gatemore, said: “We are disappointed, but unfortunately not surprised, that French Connection have failed to improve on last year’s dismal results.

“The board is a mockery of modern corporate governance. With the resignation of Christos Angelides, there are no independent directors in place and the chairman/CEO, Stephen Marks, is refusing to split his role and is running the business with no regard for shareholders.”

Mr Meidar said he thought the business was worth two to three times the £34m it is currently valued at by the stock market.

Shrinking chain

Mr Marks said French Connection’s retail business in the UK and Europe had seen “good progress”, with sales at stores open for more than a year up 4.4%.

However, it said the business had been “partly held back” by a poorer performance at its wholesale and licensing divisions.

French Connection has more than 50 stores in the UK and mainland Europe. It shut nine stores last year, has shut two outlets so far this year and is planning to close another six shops before the end of 2017.

It aims to get the store chain down to 30 outlets.

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