MORE records have been broken as the fast growing United Co-operatives, the UK's largest independent co-operative society, has announced outstanding interim results.
During the 26 weeks ended 24 July 2004, turnover passed £ 900 million for the first time to stand at £ 908 million, an eight per cent increase on the same period a year earlier.
Profit before distributions, the equivalent of pre-tax profit in a Plc, rose by an impressive 19 per cent, driven by strong performances in the society's food, healthcare and motor groups and by tight cost controls.
At the close of the half year the number of outlets operated by United was approaching 1,000. That barrier has now been broken, helped by an aggressive acquisition programme, which has seen major additions to the business in food, travel, motor dealerships and petrol sites.
Peter Marks, Chief Executive, commented: "Yet again United is reporting on a superb set of figures and major progress in key areas of the business.
"We are growing organically and by acquisition and both will continue, despite obvious challenges in the second half of the year, including the price of oil and higher interest rates."
He continued: "All our businesses operate in tough, highly competitive sectors and we will need to work very hard to maintain the progress we have made over the past decade."
Highlights of the period included the acquisitions of the Quality Fare and Neighbours food chains, the Cruise Savers International (CSI) and Corniche travel businesses and the purchase of 15 car dealerships on seven sites in the East Midlands from Ilkeston Co-op.
Refurbishment programmes continued throughout the business, as well as store openings. Large refurbishments took place at the Wythenshawe and Irlam o'the Heights food stores in Manchester. In addition, the funeral fleet was revitalised with the purchase of new vehicles.
In June, United moved its headquarters to purpose-built premises in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Its main trading area covers the Midlands and north of England, with a major funeral business in Northern Ireland.