El Corte Inglés faces the future with the aim of seeking profitability and regaining the trust of its customers

the advice of The Corte Ingles finished yesterday with no surprises or surprises. That is, what is expected. All of the Board’s proposals were approved unanimously. And perhaps the highlight, were the words of the president, Marta Álvarezwhich served to understand where the future of department stores will go after the changes that have taken place in recent months.

And the first key is profitability. The president of El Corte Inglés recalled the effort that the company makes to “be profitable without losing quality and complete the digital transformation without the store losing its physical appeal.”

In fact, he underlined something important: to continue to be “that business enterprise that never fails, the one that is synonymous with trust”. And he added: “El Corte Inglés is and must be the house of trust”. And here is the other major step in its strategy to build El Corte Inglés of the future: regaining the trust of customers.

[El Corte Inglés reduce su deuda a niveles de 2008 tras cerrar la operación con Mutua]

Two objectives towards which he is heading with a more positive financial and economic situation. It should be remembered that the El Corte Inglés group returned to profit with 120 million euros and billed 12,508 million euros, 22% more during fiscal year 2021 (ended February 28, 2022). At the moment, sales for the first four months are higher than the same period in 2019, they say.

And weeks before reporting the results, he hit a milestone they kept remembering: debt reduction. Following the signing of the agreement with Mutua, the debt again fell sharply, remaining at 2,555 million euros, the lowest level of the last 15 years.

Likewise, the settlement of the first bond issue for an amount of 600 million euros and, already in March 2022, the refinancing for a maximum total amount of 2,600 million euros carried out with an investment grade format, at a lower cost and on better terms.

managerial changes

This in the most economical plan, but the internal structure of department stores has also undergone a significant metamorphosis. In March, it was unexpectedly announced the new management structurewhich involved the constitution of a delegated executive commission, chaired by Marta Álvarez, after the departure of former CEO Víctor del Pozo.

The president of El Corte Inglés, Marta Álvarez, during the 2022 general assembly.

The president of El Corte Inglés, Marta Álvarez, during the 2022 general assembly.

The shareholding structure is also different. First by entering the Mutua group. The agreement between the two companies, which entered into force last May, saw the insurer join the shareholders of El Corte Inglés with 8% of the capital, and the acquisition of 51% of Seguros El Corte Inglés by Mutua. Indeed, Ignacio Garralda, chairman of Grupo Mutua, attended the general meeting for the first time and as a director.

And in June came the other big move. Primefin, the investment arm of Qatari Bin Jassim Al Thani, sold half of its stake in the department store to the company itself. An operation valued at just over 387 million euros.

With this takeover, the shareholders of the department stores are as follows: Ramón Areces Foundation (40.04%), IASA (18.40%), PrimeFin (5.53%), Cesla Corporation (9.69%), Grupo Mutua (8%), Portfolio Mancor (8.04%) and minorities (4.7%). Treasury shares, which had 0.11%, now total 5.53%. Or 5.64%.

This operation is part of the group’s financial optimization strategy, which is valued at 7,000 million euros. The same assessment that was made when the Mutua Madrileña group became a shareholder of El Corte Inglés with 8%.

And, here, the last thing that remains to be known is whether in the coming months Al Thani could leave the board of directors of El Corte Inglés, as industry sources expect.

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