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November 22, 2002 - MELBOURNE -- Edgy shareholders wiped a further $130 million from the value of grocery retailer Woolworths yesterday, even though directors firmed up their sales predictions and forecast a "good, steady, strong Christmas".
Woolies shares fell 12 cents to $11.89 after the annual meeting in Melbourne, giving back most of the gains achieved since the price hit a three-month low last Monday. Shareholders were told the company was keeping an eye out for anti-competitive practices in the petrol industry, in which it has made strong inroads, and a single annual report would be published in future.
Chairman James Strong admitted to a little frustration over the market's recent negative reactions to Woolworths, given that the company strove to make timely disclosure and communicate well with the market. "It is sort of unfortunately automatic that if you get to be a highly rated stock with a high P/E (price-earnings) ratio, then there seems to be heightened nervousness about every single development."
He referred to the negative reaction to the first-quarter sales figures released late in October and said that in retrospect there was nothing negative to interpret from them.