THE Co-operative Group has announced strong interim results for its family of businesses.
In the six months to 28 June, the Group's income rose by 10 per cent (£ 357.4 million) to £ 3.9 billion and consolidated operating profit, before exceptionals, was up 49 per cent (£ 55.8 million) to £ 169.7 million.
This was made up from profits from trading activities, up by £ 27.6 million to £ 60.7 million and profits from the Co-operative Bank and CIS (Co-operative Financial Services), up by £ 8 million to £ 75.3 million and up by £ 21.2 million to £ 33.7 million respectively.
The Group says the improved trading performance was mainly due to its food retailing business and the strategy of focusing on the top-up shopping sector.
A heavy investment programme in store refits and acquisitions, and the expansion of the Welcome convenience store format, helped it achieve a 75 per cent rise in profits, before exceptionals, up by £ 19.6 million to £ 45.8 million , with sales up 27 per cent to £ 1.4 billion.
Like-for-like sales during the period were also up four per cent ? well ahead of the current market.
Profit improvements at CFS resulted from a four per cent rise in the Co-operative Bank's operating income and a 14 per cent reduction in the charge for bad debts.
The profit improvement in CIS' general insurance business was helped by a lower claims ratio, due to better than average weather conditions..
In June, the Group acquired the Balfour chain of convenience stores and newsagents for £ 31 million, strengthening its position as the UK leader in top-up food shopping.
Other acquisitions included Travelcare's purchase of Sunshare Vacations, to boost its direct sales business via the internet and the Co-operative Bank's acquisition of Northern Rock's credit card portfolio of 90,000 accounts.
The Group has also won its share of accolades. Travelcare was voted UK Travel Agent of the Year in leading industry awards; the food retailing business received The Grocer Magazine's Gold Award for Marketing Excellence and the Group's financial services businesses won four categories in the Guardian and Observer Consumer Finance Awards.
"The last six months have shown part of what we can achieve as a Group ? but only part. We are committed to maintaining the pace of progress and demonstrating that the co-operative business model can be successful, profitable, responsible and relevant to today's society and today's customers," said Chief Executive Martin Beaumont.