UBS sells out of Retail Food Group, shares tumble again

UBS sells out of Retail Food Group, shares tumble again
Shares in Retail Food Group (ASX: RFG) have plunged for a second day in a row after institutional investor UBS Group announced it had sold out of the troubled franchise operation.

UBS is believed to have held a 5 per cent voting power in RFG and it lodged its "notice of ceasing to be a substantial holder" to the ASX on Tuesday March 6, stating it had sold its holdings on Thursday March 1.

That was one day before RFG released a delayed half year report which revealed a net loss after tax of $87.8 million, compared to $32.7 million profit in the previous half year and $138 million in writedowns on the value of its brands.

RFG went into the trading halt last week because of a dispute with its auditors and, as a result, its half yearly results were delayed until Friday.

After RFG came out of its two-day trading halt on Monday, investors rushed for the exit and at one stage the share price plunged by half to $1.055, just after the open but recovered to $1.29 at the end of the day.

At around 1pm AEDT on Tuesday, RFG shares fell a further 14 percent to $1.10.

RFG, which operates food franchises such as Donut King, Gloria Jean's Coffee and Pizza Capers, Crust Pizza and Michel's Patisserie, cited "challenging trading conditions" while acknowledging its own "disappointing performance" as it outlined its business-wide review to turn the company around.

As part of the business-wide review, RFG says it will close between 160 and 200 outlets as the company negotiates rent decreases on its "unsustainable" stores.

UBS analysts have been at odds with RFG management over the past year. In June, UBS published a report saying the franchise group will be hurt by accounting changes, which prompted RFG to take the unusual step of issuing an ASX statement criticising an analysts' report.

UBS has also raised concerns about RFG's exposure to leases and in 2017 it issued a sell recommendation on the stock. It now has a neutral recommendation.

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