THE Co-operative Group has announced a big rise in pre-tax profits for the year ending January 13 with food retailing and the pharmacy division contributing strongly to a 17.6 per cent increase.
Overall profits amount to £ 318.1m despite Co-operative Financial Services' total falling by £ 13.1m to £ 146.2m, largely as a result of difficulties in the banking industry.
Co-operative Food saw profits rise by 29.2 per cent to £ 92.5m, while Co-operative Pharmacy increased profits by 60.9 per cent to £ 25.9m. Group sales for the period, before reinsurance premiums and adjusting for the 53 week year in 2005, were up 1.2 per cent to £ 7.3bn, and operating profit after significant items rose by 9.7 per cent to £ 352m.
The figures show that the Group is in much better shape than it was a year ago, says Chief Executive Martin Beaumont, who added that the results have helped pave the way for a successful outcome to the proposed merger with United Co-operatives.
Commented Mr Beaumont: "2006 was a year in which we changed our emphasis from consolidation to expansion and new business opportunity. Our food business delivered impressive sales and profit growth; our funeral and pharmacy businesses expanded as a result of acquisition and organic growth, and we launched a new legal services business.
"In addition, we have rejuvenated our brand; placed membership back at the heart of the business; introduced a share of the profits payment for members and improved the engagement and commitment of our people."
*Further coverage in the next Co-op News, available from Tuesday April 17th.