The markets will be keen to see how he is growing into his new role and find out more about the man who few retail analysts know much about. Matthews, who joined the company in the middle of November from Compass Group where he was finance director and managing director, has a tough job ahead of him to restore the fortunes of a company that under performed the FTSE-100 index by almost 40% last year. Many movers and shakers have already discounted any attempts to turn the company around. ‘Sainsbury has a limited life expectancy because it will be bought by somebody,’ was the view of one analyst. ‘We do not expect it to be around in 12-18 months’ time.’ But there are signs that things are turning around. October’s interim results revealed group sales had increased by 4.5% to £9.1bn driven by a strong sales performance in Homebase and in its US interest, Shaw’s. The company’s shares have also received backing from a range of sources as a stock to buy this year, with the strong family interest in the company given as a major driver for renewed interest. Unfortunately the 35% family interest, coupled with the profitability of Shaw’s and Homebase, could be a double-edged sword for Matthews who may be faced with suitable purchasers sooner than he imagines. That is unless he has been brought on board to find a match.
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