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Fourth quarter like for like sales dropped 2.5% at Booker (BOK) to take full year like for likes (excluding Londis and Budgens) 1.9% lower year on year.

Non tobacco sales reduced by 0.7% on a like-for-like basis in the fourth quarter as deflation in food prices hit performance along with Booker’s customers reporting weak consumer demand during the period.

Tobacco sales continued to be adversely impacted by the ban on small stores displaying tobacco products, down 6.1% like-for-like during the quarter.

Premier continued to grow during the period and the group said it “made good progress” on the integration of Londis and Budgens.

Group sales, including Budgens and Londis, rose by 10.6% on the same period last year in the fourth quarter to take total sales to £5bn for the year – up 5% year on year.

For the year Booker’s like for like non tobacco sales were down 0.3% with tobacco down 5.2%. Like-for-like total sales to retailers during the year reduced by 2.2% primarily due to the tobacco display ban.

Booker Chief Executive Charles Wilson said: “Overall, 2015/16 was a good year. Customer satisfaction scores were strong, sales and profits were the best we have ever achieved. We made good progress on the integration of Londis and Budgens. We continue to improve choice, prices and service to our customers. Booker Group remains on track to Focus, Drive and Broaden the business.”

Booker shares have eased 1% in early trading to 167.2p. The shares are 7.9% down so far in 2016. 

Morning update

Meat packing firm Hilton Food Group has reported its preliminary full year results this morning. It saw volume growth of 5.5%, with growth in the UK, Ireland and Holland for Tesco and Albert Heijn with particularly strong Christmas trading partly offset by continuing pressure on consumer spending in Denmark.

Overall revenues reduced by 0.4% despite the volume gains, reflecting strengthening of sterling, which decreased revenues by 7.4%. Operating profit was £29.0m, which is 11.3% ahead of last year and 20.9% higher on a constant currency basis. Pre-tax profit was up 11% to £28m.

Profits were helped by capex returning to maintenance levels at £13.7m having been 43.3m last year after a major re-investment programme undertaken in the UK and Sweden.

Chief executive Robert Watson said: “I am pleased to report that during 2015 Hilton made strong progress in pursuing its growth strategy, including the expansion of the Australian joint venture and the completion of the major UK capacity expansion project. We will continue to look for available opportunities to progressively and profitably expand the scale and scope of our operations as they arise using a business model that has over time proved to be successful, resilient, relevant and internationally transferable.”

Elsewhere, GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index remained at zero in March. Two of the measures used to calculate the Index saw decreases this month, with one measure showing an increase and the remaining two measures staying the same. Looking at how consumers see the wider economy developing over the next 12 months, the measure is 18 points lower this month than in March 2015

Joe Staton, head of market dynamics at GfK, said: ““Are we seeing Brexit jitters at work now? Whilst UK consumers remain resolutely upbeat about their personal financial situation, concerns about prospects for the general economic situation continue to dampen our mood. Despite good economic headlines about low inflation, interest rates and prices in the shops, concerns about Brexit and the ongoing Eurozone crisis appear to be hitting home.”

The FTSE has lost some of the strong gains it made yesterday (see below), falling 0.7% to 6,162.6pts this morning on weaker mining and financial sector performance.

Hilton Food Group has leapt 4% to 516p on this morning’s annual results. 

Elsewhere, Conviviality (CVR) is up 2.2% to 232.5p and Premier Foods (PFD) is up another 1.6% to 60p.

It has been a tougher morning for the retailers, with Ocado (OCDO) down 2.1% to 288.4p, Tesco (TSCO) down 1.4% to 191p, Morrisons (MRW), down 1.1% to 199.9p and Sainsbury’s (SBRY) down 0.9% to 278.3p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 surged back to its highest closing level of 2016 yesterday, rising 1.6% to 6,203.2pts after concerns over an imminent US interest rate rise were eased and oil headed back towards $40 a barrel.

The big news in grocery yesterday was the further twist to the Premier Foods bidding saga. US suitor McCormick offering an improved 65p per share if it were allowed to look at Premier’s books – an offer Premier subsequently turned down again, but this time agreeing to engage with the McCormick board. Meanwhile, prospective strategic partner Nissin Foods built up its stake in Premier to 19.9%.

Premier shares ended the day up 4.4% at 59p – close to double the 31.5p it was at before McCormick’s interest became public. In the US McCormick was up 0.2% to $99.75.

Elsewhere it was a good day for grocery and fmcg stocks in general.

Coca-Cola HBC (CCH) was one of the FTSE 100’s biggest risers, climbing 4.6% to 1505p, while there were also big rises at Greencore (GNC), up 4% to 376p and Dairy Crest (DCG), up 3.1% to 619.5p.

Tesco (TSCO) ended the day up 2.3% at 193.8p, Morrisons (MRW) was up 1.9% at 202.1p and Sainsbury’s (SBRY) rose 1.8% to 280.9p.

Booker (BOK) was up 1.9% to 168.8p before its Q4 update this morning.