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Luxury chocolatier Hotel Chocolat (HOTC) has reported sweet growth in first-half sales and profits thanks to new store openings and strong Christmas trading.

Revenues in the 26 weeks to 25 December increased 14% to £62.5m, with underlying EBITDA up 27% to £13.7m and a 28% rise in pre-tax profits to £11.2m.

The retailer opened ten new stores in the period, with seven including variations of the Hot Chocolat-led cafe offer, which contributed 4% to year-on-year sales growth and boosted the estate to 93 strong.

All channels delivered growth for the group in the half, with an improved seasonal range, including new gift hampers, encouraging customers to trade up to higher price points. Strong availability, alongside the new ranges, also resulted in increases in footfall and items per basket, the premium retailer said.

Investments in the UK manufacturing operations improved efficiency in the half and contribution to an expansion of margins.

CEO Angus Thirlwell said: “This has been another period of good progress for Hotel Chocolat with strong growth in both sales and profitability. The critical Christmas period was very successful, helped by good availability, popular and innovative new ranges and significantly increased digital transactions.

“We have strong plans in place for the key spring seasons of Mother’s Day and Easter and are confident of further progress.

“We continue to make good headway against our three key strategic objectives of opening more stores, improving our digital capability and increasing our production capacity.”

He added the vertical integration of the group and its UK manufacturing base, alongside currency hedging, helped to mitigate the headwinds facing UK retailers.

Shares in the group leapt another 4.2% to 265.9p this morning.

Morning update

Irish ingredients group Glanbia (GLB) is selling off 60% of its dairy business to the Glanbia Co-operative Society. The two groups have signed an agreement to form a new joint venture called Glanbia Ireland, which will include Glanbia Ingredients Ireland, Glanbia Consumer Foods Ireland and Glanbia Agribusiness. The new venture will be 60% owned by Glanbia Co-op and 40% owned by Glanbia plc.

Group MD Siobhan Talbot said: “The creation of Glanbia Ireland makes strategic sense for the shareholders of both Glanbia Co-op and Glanbia plc. It brings together in a single structure the ownership, operations and objectives of Glanbia’s Irish dairy and agri-businesses.

“With €1.5bn of annual revenue and a 2.4 billion litre milk pool, it will be a large scale, efficient business with a high-quality supply chain and the strength and diversity to face the future with confidence. Glanbia plc will continue to focus on its global nutrition strategy through the platforms of Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Glanbia Nutritionals and strategic joint ventures for the benefit of all shareholders.”

Dairy Ireland, currently a wholly owned segment of Glanbia plc, reported a 2.7% fall in revenues to €616.2m in 2016 and EBITA of €30.7m.

Glanbia also reported its annual results this morning. Revenues increased 1.3% in 2016 to €3.7bn, with 2.8% growth contributed by the wholly-owned business being offset by a 3.4% decline in sales from joint ventures and associated businesses. Group EBITA jumped 12.8% to €349.8m.

Glanbia shares have risen 0.8% to €17.49 so far.

McBride (MCB) has reported a 7% fall in first-half revenues to £360.6m after stripping out the £16.5m boost provided by the by the translation effect of a strong Euro. Pre-tax profits were also up 15% to £18.8m. The group said its 2015 recovery plan was making progress and the separation of its household, personal care and aerosols businesses has led to McBride receiving several approaches to sell the latter. The initial interest in the aerosols division, which has sales of £60m and a manufacturing base in the UK, has been narrowed down and is concluding to its next steps.

CEO Rik De Vos said: “I am both encouraged and delighted by the group’s solid performance in this first half of our financial year, in spite of the tough trading environment. Encouraged because our financial results remain strong and on track to meet our key three to five year objectives for profitability, cash and ROCE during the phased implementation of our strategy.

“Delighted as the McBride teams continue to implement the strategic objectives as defined for this ‘Prepare’ phase while managing the business effectively in uncertain market circumstances. Our focus remains on preparing the company for growth by securing the future building blocks required, while protecting the quality of the bottom line.

“Uncertainty in both the size and timing of raw material inflation and changes to foreign exchange rates is to be expected in the second half of the year. We will work closely with customers to mitigate these but it is likely the second half will see some lag effect between higher input prices and margin recovery.

“While trading conditions in the second half are expected to remain challenging, we believe our ongoing margin and cost initiatives position us well to mitigate these effects. As such, the Board’s full year expectations remain unchanged.”

Yesterday in the City

Unilever (ULVR) shares bounced back yesterday from the heavy plunged on Monday following news that Kraft Heinz had walked away from the takeover pursuit. The consumer goods giant rose 1% to 3,583.5p, taking the stock to about 6% higher than before the bid became public – and adding about £7bn to the group’s market cap in the process.

WH Smith (SMWH) enjoyed a 3.8% bump to 1,686p as Investec upgraded the shares to a ‘buy’ after reason good results, especially for the travel division.

The three listed supermarkets all finished in the red as Asda revealed a tenth consecutive quarter of declining like-for-like sales. Despite the Walmart-owned supermarket showing progress, with the decline slowing considerably in the fourth quarter, sentiment on the industry was soft, with Morrisons (MRW) down 1.8% to 244.8p, Tesco (TSCO) down 1.5% to 191.8p and Sainsbury’s (SBRY) down 0.8% to 266p. Ocado (OCDO) was also dragged down 0.6% to 253p.

McBride also fell 2.3% to 171p ahead of this morning’s interims, but investors had more faith in Hotel Chocolat before its own half-year results, with the stock jumping 3.6% to 254.8p.

The FTSE 100 slipped 0.3% (25 points) as HSBC blamed its slump in profits in the Brexit and Trump votes.