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Do trading updates make Burberry Group plc and ASOS plc the perfect shares to soothe investors’ post-referendum nerves?

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With political uncertainty dictating how the markets have moved over the past few weeks, it feels a little redundant to scrutinise trading updates from UK companies.

As every Fool knows however, investing is about buying slices of great businesses and holding them for years, not obsessing over short-term share price moves or (whisper it) trying to time the market. So, let’s look at the latest figures from two of the UK’s most successful fashion retailers: Burberry (LSE: BRBY) and ASOS (LSE: ASC).

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Flat sales

On Monday, Burberry said CEO Christopher Bailey would next year become president with his former position being filled by Marco Gobbetti. While coming on the same day that share prices of most FTSE 100 shares rocketed upwards, a leap of over 4% won’t have escaped the former’s notice. 

Then again, Mr Bailey must have seen this coming. Before Monday, Burberry’s shares had slumped by 22% in the past 12 months suggesting that, in addition to concerns over slowing global growth, investors were increasingly worried that his dual role of CEO and Chief Creative Officer wasn’t benefitting the company.

Today’s trading update may do little to assuage these concerns. Sales revenues were flat at £423m. On a like-for-like basis, they actually fell by 3% due to  a “challenging external environment“.

Having said this, Burberry’s shares are up 3.7% in early trading, suggesting investors were expecting the news to be a lot worse. They now trade on a not-unreasonable rolling price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 17 and offer a well-covered yield of just over 3%.

Reassuringly expensive?

At the opposite end of the market, online giant ASOS’s trading update yesterday showed UK sales up 28% and international scales up 31% in the four months to 30 June. The company now expects full year sales growth “at the upper end of the 20-25% range“.

Now for the bad news. ASOS’s growth star status means it remains on an astronomical valuation (a rolling P/E of almost 60, according to Stockopedia). The shares have also had a decent run of late, given that they went as low as 2,595p back in February (now 4,483p). Finally, although the sales growth looks impressive, a quick scan of the company’s profit levels shows that these have barely budged in the last couple of years as a result of increased competition and the need to cut prices. Is the ASOS bubble about to burst?

Global reach

Trying to compare ASOS with Burberry isn’t entirely rational since the former caters to trend-and-price-focused 20-somethings while the latter offers luxury with price tags few 20-somethings can afford. Nevertheless, one thing both companies are likely to share is an ability to withstand the fallout from the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

The sharp rise in international sales growth should protect ASOS from too much Brexit pain. Indeed, international sales now account for 59% of its business. Burberry is also a likely beneficiary as it ships a large proportion of its products abroad after being manufactured in the UK. A weaker pound is therefore good news for the £5.4bn cap.

That said, a slowdown in global growth could hit both share prices but particularly Burberry’s as consumers cut back on luxury items. While both companies have performed extremely well over the last few years, risk-averse investors may wish to look for less cyclical stocks.

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Paul Summers has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended ASOS. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Burberry. 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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