UNITED Co-operatives has reported its first full year results since its formation by the merger of the former United Norwest and Yorkshire societies in 2002.
The results, which cover the financial year to 24th January, show sales and profits sharply up on the previous year and make it ten in a row for the UK's largest regional society.
Chief Executive Peter Marks (pictured) said the benefits of the merger were clearly reflected in the figures, with further progress expected in the year ahead.
He told the News: "Turnover grew by almost 27 per cent to £ 1,671 million, from the previous year's £ 1,319 million, reflecting the first full year's figures for the new society. Adjusting for the impact of the merger, like-for-like turnover was up 5.3 per cent – a creditable performance in tough retailing conditions.
"Growth was achieved across all trading groups, with particularly pleasing results achieved in the food, travel, healthcare and motor businesses. Our department stores and funeral businesses also made valuable contributions, despite challenging conditions."
Mr Marks said that normal operating profit, before exceptional items, rose by 27 per cent to almost £ 42 million from last year's £ 33 million, while trading profit rose by over 24 per cent to a new record of £ 43 million.
"The all-important profit before distributions was up an exceptional 87 per cent at £ 35.5 million from the previous year's £ 18.9 million. Again adjusting for the impact of the merger, the like-for-like figure was still a very impressive 38 per cent," added Mr Marks.
He went on: "These are excellent figures that stand comparison with the best of the competition. Even those who were sceptical about the benefits of the merger, can see that these results demonstrate what a far-sighted move it was."
According to reports, over 70 per cent of business mergers fail. "Clearly, ours is not only in the 30 per cent which succeed, but is up there with those which have been spectacular successes," said Mr Marks.
The Chief Executive also drew attention to United's underlying strength, which was illustrated by the increase in net assets, up 6.5 per cent to £ 324 million. With gearing down to 29 per cent ? its lowest level for eight years ? he believes the society is well placed to develop its business in the years ahead.
Society President Peter Senior, who completes his three-year term of office in May, commented: "In the three years it has been my privilege to be President of United, we have continued to go from strength to strength.
"When I leave office shortly, I am sure that I will leave the society in the best shape it has ever been in and in the hands of the best Board and management team in the Movement. The progress we have made since the start of the new millennium has been tremendous and is a testament to the hard work of all involved."