Next proves it’s still possible to be a retail success

Lawrence Stroll must wonder if he upset someone in a former life. First his rescue of Aston Martin was almost derailed by a global health emergency, then having pushed ahead with a £560m fundraising anyway, the carmaker needed another £260m cash injection just three months later.

As if that wasn’t enough, it has now uncovered an accounting farrago at its US arm dating back to 2018, the year that Aston Martin joined the stock market, selling shares at £19 a go. The cock-up means that last year’s losses were actually £70.9m compared with the £55.6m that had been reported.

Still, at least it helped to distract from the main event: another set of rotten results. In fact, these were much worse than the last ones, unsurprising perhaps given the impact of Covid-19, which forced it to quickly shut dealerships and factories around the world.

In the first half of this year, turnover plunged two thirds to £146m and it sold 1,770 cars, a 40pc fall on the previous period. Pre-tax losses almost trebled to £227m.

“This has been a very intense and challenging six months,” Stroll said. The art of the understatement lives on at Aston Martin.

No bailout for Rolls-Royce?

First British Airways, now Rolls-Royce. Despite successfully weathering the worst of the storm, even the big beasts of the FTSE will need to raise further funds to get through the next stage of the crisis. Both are victims of the severe downturn in travel, exacerbated by our own government’s cack-handed response. 

There has been speculation that ministers will be forced to step in and bail out Rolls but there seems little chance of that. The Treasury has made it clear that shareholders should be the first port of call for struggling companies. 

According to reports, a £1.5bn cash call looms, although City sources point out that the company burnt through £3bn of cash in the last quarter so the eventual figure is likely to be closer to that. Whatever the amount, it should end all talk of the taxpayer stepping in. 

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