Marc Hasenfuss Editor-at-large

January — traditionally a mellow start to the year — has been the month of truly horrible trading updates. Investors in retail stocks had little to cheer about, especially the underwhelming Christmas sales numbers. I’ve never been much of a dabbler in retail counters; I’m pretty thin on consumer stocks that are hitched to our plodding local economy. That said, the trading update that caught my eye was the statement from consumer brands conglomerate AVI for the six months ended December 31. AVI is one of just two food stocks that I would nibble (the other being the JSE’s "big bird", Astral Foods) — at the right price. The company is superbly managed with a superior brand portfolio able to sustain market share gains and price increases. But right now even champion consumer conglomerates are straining. AVI’s revenue for the interim period was just 0.2% higher, with competitor discounting in some categories and dreary consumer spending causing sales volume weakness across a number of bu...

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