Is J Sainsbury plc biting off more than it can chew with Home Retail Group plc?

This Fool runs the rule over J Sainsbury plc (LON SBRY). Does the acquisition of Home Retail Group plc (LON: HOME) make sense?

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As we head to one of the most important votes of our generation, there are tens of thousands of UK-based companies continuing about their business and reporting to the market, which is a key part of that business.

Sales in focus

This week there are two interesting companies that should be tying the knot during Q3 both reporting to the market. Sainsbury’s (LSE: SBRY), one of the big four supermarkets, and Argos owner Home Retail (LSE: HOME). While not naturally linked, Sainsbury’s has made an offer for Home Retail that has been accepted by the board and recommended to shareholders so the two should be looking for maximum synergies come Q3.

Since the offer was made earlier this year, Home Retail’s shares have (rather unsurprisingly) outperformed the wider market, so too have Sainsbury’s owing to a better than expected sales performance than was feared by the market. However, as can be seen by the chart, both of the shares have been falling of late, in line with a number of other retailers.

First up will be Sainsbury’s reporting on Wednesday. Investors will be hoping for signs of like-for-like sales improvement, which is unlikely given the downbeat view of Kantar Worldpanel on the major supermarkets published at the beginning of May. That said, under the leadership of CEO Mike Coupe, the group is showing signs of turning itself around with better than expected results revealed at the start of May.

Following Sainsbury’s on Thursday is Home Retail. Given the upcoming transaction with Sainsbury’s in the third quarter, any further deterioration in trading could impact on both share prices as the market may call into question the merits of the deal, especially due to the strength of rivals such as Amazon where growth is showing no signs of stopping.

Just Argos it?

All that said, despite the difficult environment across the retail sector, it doesn’t look to me that Sainsbury’s has overpaid for Argos and its infrastructure given that management believes the acquisition will be earnings enhancing in the first full year following completion. That’s despite the near-14% dilution that will be bought about by the issuance of 261m new shares during the third quarter.

In addition to the earnings enhancements, management believes it can bring about significant synergies (cost savings to you and I) as head office functions and infrastructure are merged, bringing about a leaner machine within the next three years.

Additionally, many Argos stores will be either closed or relocated as leases expire, meaning we should start to see much more in the way of Argos concession stores in our local Sainsbury’s store, which could boost sales.

Fighting on all fronts

However, as I’ve alluded to above, the sector is currently crowded, which in the end will mean survival of the fittest – whether that means disruptive businesses such as Amazon, or eBay, only time will tell.

Combine that with an ultra-competitive, not to mention deflationary, grocery sector and it means Sainsbury’s needs to be up for the challenge and executing the company strategy to the letter in order to stay competitive.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

Dave Sullivan has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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