Morrisons has posted record sales growth of 16% over Christmas and aims to complete its £3bn takeover of rival supermarket group Safeway in March.

Like-for-like sales at the Bradford-based chain for the six weeks to January 4 rose 10.2% including petrol or 9.6% excluding petrol. Sales were boosted with the help of nine new stores, three of which were relocations.

Morrisons has put together a ‘scheme of arrangement’ sanctioned by the courts to fast-track its bid for Safeway. This will save an estimated £15m in stamp duty and mean the bid is likely to be completed in early March.

A letter will be sent to shareholders at Morrisons and Safeway the week of January 19 outlining the scheme.

The company said that despite the possible distraction of the Safeway deal, it met customer demand over the period without suffering any large overhang of fresh and seasonal stock. Footfall was up 4.8% compared to Christmas 2002, with the average store take 9.4% ahead.

Morrisons noted that its financial year ends on February 1 and that in the first 48 weeks sales were 15.4% ahead of last year with like-for-like sales up 9.3% or by 8.4% excluding petrol.

Morrisons will report full-year results on March 18.

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