LAST year's acquisition of the 600-store Alldays chain has proved a bargain buy for the Co-operative Group.
That's the view of Group chairman Keith Darwin, who told Saturday's annual general meeting: "The Alldays' acquisition was an immense step forward in progressing our convenience store strategy, and in the light of subsequent developments in the retail sector, turned out to be especially timely and at extremely good value to the Group.
"There is no doubt that to acquire that chain now would have cost very significantly more than the £ 133 million paid by us before the takeover frenzy that has developed in the sector."
The chairman recalled that the Alldays announcement came just after the Co-op Group half-yearly meeting in October, but said there would be no similar news this time.
But Mr Darwin told delegates the society remains in an acquisitive mode. He said: "We have no intention of reducing our efforts on this front. Food retail's operating profits jumped by £ 23.9 million to £ 69.5 million due in large part to store refits, and I believe our food retailing business has seen a transformation over the last few years."
Mr Darwin admitted that, with hindsight, 2002 had not been the ideal year to have chosen to consolidate CIS's results into the Group accounts for the first time. A £ 283 million short-term investment fluctuation due to poorly-performing equity markets had resulted in consolidated accounts looking poorer than they would on a detailed, more informed basis.
But Mr Darwin said: "CIS remains one of the UK's most solvent and well capitalised insurance businesses and when stock markets rise, the impact on the CIS reserves will show through to profits, just as this year's fall is reflected in the profit figure."