Somerfield’s half year results have beaten analysts' forecasts with an underlying pre-tax profit of £27.9m compared to £15.5m the year before.

Its like-for-like sales for the first 10 weeks of the second half however, were down by 1.2% for Somerfield and 1.6% for Kwik Save, with a decline of 1.4% overall for the group.

Chief executive Steve Back, commented: “I am pleased that we achieved a significant increase in operating profit while accelerating our estate renewal programme.”

The company is working to incorporate he recently-purchased 114 Safeway compact stores, 34 of which are under its ownership and trading already.

“This activity is transforming our estate in line with our strategy, thereby equipping the Group to meet the challenging conditions of an increasingly competitive marketplace,” said Back.

The group’s operating profit before exceptional items was £32.7m for the 28 weeks to November 6, compared to £17.2m the year before.

Like-for-like sales for the half-year rose 0.9% for Somerfield, 0.1% for Kwik Save and 0.6% for the Group.