Business

M&S shares lose shine after clothing division boss quits

Pictured, from left, John Dixon, Belinda Earl, Frances Russell and Marc Bolland at the unveiling of Marks & Spencer's autumn/winter collection, as John Dixon, the head of Marks & Spencer's beleaguered clothing division, has quit after nearly three decades at the retailer

M&S shares lost some of their sparkle today as the head of its beleaguered clothing division quit just as it was showing halting signs of a turnaround in fortunes.

The retailer led the fallers on the FTSE 100 Index with the stock down more than 1 per cent after John Dixon announced he was leaving after being given the chance to become chief executive at another company.

It came as the wider top-flight fell 18.7 points to 6777.8, with European markets also edging into the red.

Sentiment that had spurred a relief rally on Greece's endorsement of a controversial bailout rescue package was fading.

In the UK, investors were also weighing up the impact of comments by Bank of England governor Mark Carney that a decision on an interest rate hike was "likely to come into sharper relief around the turn of this year".

An increase in rates from the current level of 0.5 per cent had previously not been expected until the middle of next year.

Equity investors could be concerned by the tightening of monetary policy after more than six years of historic low rates that have diminished returns from savings and increased the attractiveness of earnings provided by stocks.

On currency markets, Mr Carney's remarks helped the pound rise by a cent against the US dollar to just under 1.57 while it climbed against the euro to just under 1.44. It has not been higher against the single currency since November 2007.

In stocks, M&S was 7.2p down at 538.8p after the decision by Mr Dixon to quit, to be replaced by the firm's food boss Steve Rowe.

The head of the retailer's general merchandise division had seen it post its first quarterly rise in like-for-like sales earlier this year after 14 successive periods of decline, though there was another fall in the most recent period.

Analysts at Jefferies said: "This is a blow to M&S but with Steve Rowe stepping into Dixon's shoes, we believe the M&S recovery can continue relatively unscathed."

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