Sainbury’s recovery programme is “on track” despite a highly competitive market, the retailer has said.

Releasing its results for the 28 weeks to end October 8, Sainsbury reported pre-tax profits of £118m, up from £117m for the same period last year.

Total sales increased 5.6% to £8,815m, while operating profit rose 13.5% to £168m. Like-for-like sales excluding petrol were up 2.1%.

Customer transactions also increased by over half a million to 15 million customers a week.

However, Sainsbury’s Bank recorded a loss of £5m due to increased provisions for bad or doubtful debt.

Philip Hampton, chairman of Sainsbury said: “While it is still early days in our recovery programme, we are on track and the management team is focused on delivering the plans outlined in October 2004.”

Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury, added: “We still have a lot of work to do behind the scenes to ensure that we remain on track but the response to our initial progress endorses our belief in the attraction of Sainsbury’s brand.”

King also said that Sainsbury had made good progress on availability but there was “still much to do”. Since October 2004, the number of products out of stock had reduced by approximately 75%.