ASX 200 (XJO) Friday – ASX shares to open lower

The S&P/ASX 200 (INDEXASX: XJO) is set to slide at the open this morning according to the latest SPI futures. Here’s what you need to know.

ASX takes a breather, Wesfarmers off to a strong start

It was a mixed day for the ASX 200, taking a breather after what has been a hectic few days. Most sectors were down, with telecommunications and consumer discretionary the standouts, adding 1.9% and 1.0% on company-specific news.

Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) shares were a key contributor yesterday, finishing 2.5% higher after providing a strong trading update. Management announced that year-to-date sales to 31 October had been strong across most of its business lines, with online sales a standout, growing 166% in the period.

Looking at Wesfarmers’ individual business lines, Bunnings continues to lead the way, revenue growing 25.2% despite Victorian lockdowns, with just 3.8% of total sales online. Officeworks continues to benefit from the work-from-home pivot, growing 23.4% with online sales representing nearly 40% of the total. Kmart and Target struggled in the face of some supply issues, managing just 3.7% growth and a 2.2% contraction, respectively.

By far the highlight was Catch Group, the $230 million acquisition in 2019, which recorded 114.4% sales growth, all of which was online, on the back of 2.7 million active customers. This performance reiterates Wesfarmers’ unrivalled ability to deploy capital in less traditional acquisitions.

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Telstra announces break up plans

By far the news of the day came from Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS), which led the market higher adding 3.0% after announcing a future-shaping restructure. CEO Andy Penn confirmed that the company would be split into three separate legal entities; InfraCo Fixed, InfraCo Towers and ServeCo. The names are quite self-explanatory, Fixed holding the companies data centres, Towers the communication towers and ServeCo its mobile telephony and other services.

Penn suggested that this is one of the ‘most significant events in Telstra’s history’, with the decision reinforced by the growing value of infrastructure assets around the globe. According to the AFR, the communication towers are currently valued at $280 million but could be worth $4 billion, whilst the Fibre network alone is valued at at least $20 billon.

The restructure will allow for the monetisation or sales of any of these assets, potentially releasing huge latent value for shareholders. Most importantly, management reiterated recent guidance for 2021 but offered an insight into the post-NBN world, with EBITDA expected to return to growth by FY22. Despite a tough few years for investors, Telstra shares may finally be living up to expectations.

US market slides, Tencent reportsAS

Lame-duck President Donald Trump has all but given up on any hope of passing further fiscal stimulus for the battered US economy, sending the S&P 500 down 1.5%. The Nasdaq outperformed, down 0.7%, as investors once again turned back to the well-known technology names as US daily COVID cases hit another record above 150,000 yesterday; state-based lockdowns are now increasing likely.

In Europe, the UK economy grew 15.5% in the third quarter, nearly offsetting the 19.8% contraction in June.

Tencent Holdings (HKG: 0700) provided a quarterly earnings update with the company overcoming US restrictions on its We Chat messaging app to deliver an 89% surge in quarterly profit. The key driver was its world-leading electronic gaming division, which saw sales increase 45% on 2019. Monthly active users of its We Chat platform exceed 1.2 billion but the company is coming under increasing political pressure in both China and the US due to its monopolistic position.

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Disclosure: At the time of publishing, the author of this article does not have a financial or commercial interest in any of the companies mentioned.

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