Budgens' links with the Irish Musgrave Group are set to deliver benefits to both companies, according to Budgens chief executive Martin Hyson. Musgrave took a stake in Budgens in August and Hyson explained: "The management teams have had time to get to know each other and we will now be meeting to explore what synergies exist between the two businesses and how to exploit them." Hyson said that Musgrave's expertise in home meal replacement was an area Budgens would be keen to develop. Hyson also revealed that Budgens had accelerated its store development programme with 14 new stores due to be added during the financial year to April, and similar plans for the following year. Hyson said Budgens did not face intense competition for sites from other retailers because it occupied a niche market. The sites it wanted, for stores of 2,000sq ft to 8,000sq ft, were bigger than those sought by most independent retailers, but too small to interest the major multiples. Last August, Budgens launched Budgens Local, a symbol group for independent retailers. Hyson said he stood by the target he announced then of 50 members within two years even though Musgrave Group managing director Seamus Scally suggested it might be raised when his company took its stake in Budgens. Six stores are trading under the fascia. Budgens is also going ahead with plans to phase out the b2 fascias on the former 7-Eleven stores it bought in 1998. Hyson said: "b2 was only a stop gap measure while the stores were brought up our standards. Twelve b2 stores have been converted to Budgens, six closed and the remainder will be converted to the Budgens Express fascia within 18 months." Hyson was speaking after announcing interim results for the 28 weeks to November 12. Group turnover was up 4.2% to £255.3m with pre-tax profits up 10.3% (excluding a property sale and leaseback deal last year) to £8.6m. Hyson revealed that like for like sales in the eight weeks to January 7 were up 2.5%. {{NEWS }}