The Co-op has posted a 63% jump in profit at its retail food operations, is to bring back its dividend payment and buy more convenience stores.

For the year to January 10, pre-tax profit at the Co-op rose to £385.4m from last year’s loss of £112.5m due to fluctuations in value of the group’s investments at the society’s insurance services. Total group sales were up 9.3% to £8.1bn.

Food sales were up 17.4% at £3bn yielding profit of £113.4m.

The group noted that like-for-like food sales for the first three months of the year were flat. And blamed the expansion of Morrisons after its takeover of Safeway for “a deterioration” in performance at its larger stores.

The Co-op said its outlook was to maintain market leadership in the c-store sector through “sustaining the best c-store offer in the market, and by making further acquisitions”.

Like-for-like sales at the group’s convenience store business rose 3.4% across the Welcome chain.

The Co-op said that through its £200m refurbishment programme 1,000 of its c-stores had been revamped, which now number 1249 since it bought the Balfour chain in 2003.

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