UNITED Co-operatives has announced record results for the third year in a row with turnover, profit and return on capital all well up.
In the year to 28th January, acquisitions and organic growth ensured that turnover passed the £ 2 billion mark for the first time, reaching a new record figure of £ 2.09 billion, up 10.9% on the previous year.
Operating profit before exceptional items was up 17.1% to £ 56.4 million while pre-tax profit rose by 7.9% to £ 35.6 million. Return on capital employed also rose for the third consecutive year, reaching 11.4%, comfortably ahead of the Co-operative Commission's benchmark figure of 10%.
United Chief Executive Peter Marks said: "Our results demonstrate the strength of United's customer offer and our determination to build market share both organically and by acquisition. We expect to invest up to £ 200 million on acquisitions this year, focusing mainly on the food and pharmacy markets. This investment is double that spent in 2005.
"Although 2005 was tough for all retailers, we had another excellent year, making advances in all core businesses. Double-digit growth was recorded in the food, travel, car and health care groups, and our funeral operation increased market share."
In the society's Food Group, sales passed £ 920 million, up 14.4%, with highlights for the period including the acquisition of five stores from Wm. Morrison, the refurbishment of 160 stores and total store numbers now reaching 520.
Travel, the most diverse business of its kind in the UK, achieved sales of £ 568 million, up 14.6% on the year before. The Group's business travel operations were combined to form Co-operative Travel Management, the 15th largest business travel operator in the UK.
The travel homeworking business, Future Travel, overtook the retail division to become the largest part of the Group and Freedom Travel, which gives independent travel operators the chance to benefit from the society's buying power, grew sales by 60%.
The Motor Group recorded a sales rise of 20.3% to £ 311 million, with fleet sales holding up well but private sales declining in line with the market generally.
Health Care Group, which consists of two pharmaceutical wholesalers and 165 community pharmacies, dispensed more than 11 million prescriptions for the first time as it expanded into Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire. Sales in the Group were up 15.3% to £ 152 million.
Despite the UK death rate falling to its lowest level on record, United's Funeral Group increased sales to £ 37 million – an increase of 2.8%.
Added Mr Marks: "Three years after the creation of United Co-operatives, our results show that mergers between strong co-operatives can deliver both better service and impressive improvements in financial performance. This is a blueprint which I am convinced needs to be repeated many times over in coming years".
"The coming 12 months look set to be another challenging period for retailers but a combination of organic growth and successful integration of acquisitions, means that we are well placed to continue the excellent progress made in recent years."