Pressure builds on Bailey to restyle Burberry's finances

Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:32pm EST
 
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By Li-mei Hoang

LONDON (Reuters) - When Christopher Bailey stepped into the top job at Burberry BRBY.L there were many who questioned whether the golden boy of British fashion could cope with being chief creative and chief executive officer at the same time.

Twenty months on and with the share price languishing at three-year lows, the 44-year-old still has a point to prove and is now facing a slowdown in the global luxury market that could pose the biggest challenge to his executive career.

Bailey has largely left his finance chief Carol Fairweather to discuss the finer technical details with investors, analysts and the press, in much the same way as his predecessor Angela Ahrendts did. He has also stuck closely to Ahrendts' strategy.

Analysts are now keen to hear how Bailey sees the future.

"He has to step up and he has to say: That was the agenda, but this is my agenda – this is what I stand for," said Luca Solca, Head of Luxury Goods at Exane BNP Paribas.

Credited with helping transform the 160-year-old Burberry from an ailing heritage brand into a global luxury powerhouse, his dual role could come under renewed scrutiny when Burberry releases the key Christmas quarterly trading update on Thursday.

Burberry, whose trench coats and cashmere scarves took Asia by storm, reported a sharp sales slowdown in Hong Kong and China in October, leading the FTSE 100 company to miss sales growth forecasts and warn of an increasingly challenging environment for luxury goods.

Although it said it had seen signs of recovery in November, its shares are trading at more than three-year lows, giving it a market value of 4.9 billion pounds, 43 percent lower than its peak in February last year.   Continued...

 
Burberry Chief Executive Christopher Bailey walks onto the catwalk following the Burberry Prorsum Autumn/Winter 2014 collection during "London Collections: Men" in London January 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett