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This growth star continues to make the high street weep

Shares in online fashion retailer Boohoo.Com (LSE: BOO) dipped over 3% in early trading today despite the release of a superb set of full-year figures. Here’s what you need to know.

“A momentous year”

In the 52 weeks to the end of February, total revenue at the £2.1bn cap Manchester-based business jumped 51% to £294.6m.

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While UK sales for its flagship brand increased 33%, growth in Europe and US markets “exceeded expectations“, rising 44% and 140% respectively at constant exchange rates. With 5.2m active customers (a 29% increase on the previous year), over one-third of Boohoo’s revenue is now generated outside of the UK. Revenue from PrettyLittleThing — 66% of which is now owned by Boohoo — came in at £11.2m since January’s acquisition.

Group gross profit leapt 42% (to £160.8m) while gross margin was slightly lower at 54.6% (from 57.8% in 2016) as a result of planned investments. Profit before tax came in at just under £31m — an increase of 97% — with basic earnings per share rocketing by the same percentage to 2.19p.

On the operational front, Boohoo reported that its new warehouse extension was now in use with planning permission for a second extension secured. A new website platform had also been introduced, leading to increased flexibility and faster response times. 

Joint CEOs, Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane reflected that 2016 had been a “momentous year” for the company, adding that PrettyLittleThing and March acquisition Nasty Gal “represent a step change in the size, structure and operation” of Boohoo, and will “greatly enhance the group’s future growth and profitability”. 

Aside from little information being imparted on progress with its second acquisition, I struggle to see any negatives in today’s announcement.

More upside ahead?

If high street retailers are weeping at Boohoo’s seemingly unstoppable rise, those already holding its stock are in a very happy place. Since a shock profit warning back in January 2015, boohoo has eight-bagged, underlining just how profitable it can be to invest on temporary weakness so long as the fundamentals look sound. Question is, how long can this continue?

For the 2018 financial year, boohoo now expects revenue growth of 50% and a group EBITDA margin of roughly 10%. Given its huge progress overseas and management’s tendency to keep revising earning expectations, even numbers as good as these could still rise.

Elsewhere, I’m encouraged by the fact that, despite recent acquisitions, Boohoo’s cash pile looks as healthy as ever at £58.4m. Although the company will surely now focus on fully integrating these brands, the strong balance sheet and masses of cash flow mean that further acquisitions can’t be ruled out.

As far as today’s share price reaction is concerned, some profit-taking was to be expected. Indeed, I suspect Boohoo’s shares may retrace slightly given recent rapid gains before proceeding to saunter through the 200p barrier.

Of course, there will come a time when expectations overtake reality and it disappoints. For evidence, just look at how shares in industry peer ASOS tanked from £7 to £2 between February and October 2014. While Boohoo could realistically grow to a similar size as its competitor over the next couple of years – especially considering the former’s far higher operating margins — there’s only so long this rise can continue. 

Right now, however, the old adage applies. If you find a great company, stick with it until the story changes. Fortunately for holders of Boohoo, the story remains the same.

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Paul Summers owns shares in The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended ASOS. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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