(Bloomberg Gadfly) -- If Burberry Group Plc's third-quarter update were part of its catwalk collection, it would be a decorative interlude rather than the flamboyant finale.
An acceleration of revenue growth -- with same-store retail sales rising 3 percent -- is pleasing. It was driven by Brexit Britain, where same-store sales rose 40 percent. But there were improvements too in France, mainland China, and even Hong Kong, reinforcing the nascent recovery in luxury goods that lifted Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA last week.
But that's not the main show here. For once, factors other than having the hottest handbag will be more central to Burberry's destiny. That isn't necessarily a good thing though.
New CEO Marco Gobbetti arrives next week. He'll assume the role of executive chairman, Asia Pacific and Middle East, before taking the top job in July. He can't do so earlier because of contractual commitments.
Gobbetti is charged with boosting Burberry's retail operations and continuing to cut its bloated cost base. But, as I've argued before, this mainstay of Brit fashion needs more than better run shops. It needs an overhaul of its clothes and handbags, which are looking tired.
It's hard to see that happening with Christopher Bailey hanging on as creative director. So, even when Gobbetti takes the helm, more management upheaval can't be ruled out.
Arguably the biggest question about Burberry's future is whether it will become a takeover target again. The company has rejected several approaches from U.S. rival Coach Inc., according to the Financial Times.
Burberry remains one of the few luxury houses unencumbered by a family stake-holder. And it's expected to end its financial year to March with net cash of about 665 million pounds ($819 million).
The shares rose 25 percent in 2016, much better than the Bloomberg Intelligence luxury peer group's 7 percent increase. It's been doubly flattered by the slump in sterling, with many of its sales made overseas and rich foreigners flocking to London for Brexit bargain luxury goods. The impact is expected to lift full-year pretax profit by 115 million pounds.
Yet despite all this, it still trades on a price-to-earnings ratio that's in line with the BI luxury peer group, unlike the chunky premiums of the past.
What's more, global rivals have plenty of firepower for M&A. Net debt for the BI basket of luxury peers is less than a third of Ebitda, the lowest in four years, according to BI analyst Deborah Aitken. With the luxury market looking like it's past its nadir, that could encourage more of the consolidation that propelled Luxottica Group SpA and Essilor International SA into a $54 billion merger.
Burberry is a prime takeover target. Now that would be a showstopper.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.
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