THE Co-operative Group enjoyed a very good first half, said Chief Executive Peter Marks at the half-yearly meeting — though he said he couldn’t take any credit for the results as he only became chief officer at the end of July.
Sales for the trading group excluding CFS had risen by 4.1 per cent to £3.1 billion; operating profit increased by a substantial 30.4 per cent reaching £166 million and borrowings had been reduced thus leaving the balance sheet in good shape.
The Chief Executive congratulated Food Retail on its exceptional first half performance which saw sales increase by 4.6 per cent to £1.7 billion; trading profit reach £64.4m — an increase of £9.3m, representing an impressive 16.9 per cent rise.
Said Mr Marks (pictured): “We should remember that that impressive result has been achieved during a year when we didn’t have a summer, compared with last year’s heat wave and as we all know, when we get a heat wave, our convenience stores do tremendous business.
“So when you look at the food result in that context, it’s even more exceptional. Like for like sales, were a superb 5.2 per cent compared to 3.3 per cent last year and that’s a market-beating performance which means we are growing market share.”
Mr Marks also highlighted the contribution of the expanding pharmacy business, which had seen sales rise by 26.4 per cent to £216.8m and profits increase by 36.3 per cent to £15.4m.
The funeral business, too, had delivered exceptional performances with a 5.6 per cent growth in sales and an improved profit before significant items of £15m despite the declining death rate.
The Group’s travel business achieved sales of £93.4m which is 6.3 per cent up on 2006, said Mr Marks, who added that although the business recorded an operating loss of just under £1m that was an improvement on the previous year.
“I’m fairly confident we will get to break even or around that by the year end and then build on a big improvement to our profitability next year,” said the Chief Executive.
Co-operative Legal Services and the Group’s property business had also contributed to half-year profits: CLS had achieved sales of £5.1m pounds and a profit of £1m, which was a very good performance for a brand new business, said Mr Marks, while the property division had recorded an operating before investment property growth of £38.8m.