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Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner SSP Group (SSPG) has reported a double-digit hike in annual sales and profits as a rise in air travel and growth in North America boosted performance.

Total revenue for the year to 30 September increased by 11.7% to £2.4bn a constant currency basis and up 19.5% at actual exchange rates given the weakness of the pound.

Like for like sales were up 3.1% driven by growth in air passenger travel and retailing initiatives, while the group made net contract gains of 6% in the period.

Net contract gains of 6% were up from the previous year’s figure of 1.7% and was driven by strong contributions from North America and the Rest of the World which reported net gains of 23% and 18% respectively.

It won significant new contract at airports in Seattle, Los Angeles and Boston in North America, and in Cebu in the Philippines.

“Like-for-like growth in the air sector has again been stronger than the rail sector, driven by increasing passenger numbers in most of our markets,” SSP Group said.

Underlying operating profit increased by 27% on a constant currency basis to £162.9m and up 34.2% at actual exchange rates.

Underlying operating margin (excluding Indian joint venture, TFS) was up 50 basis points at constant currency to 6.5%, while underlying profit before tax was up 38.3% to £148.7m and reported pre-tax profits were up 37.1% to £144.8m.

The group said the strong operating margin improvement reflects the like-for-like sales growth and further progress on its strategic initiatives. This result was slightly ahead of expectations, due to the stronger like-for-like sales growth in the second half and the fact that some unit redevelopments which were expected to take place in the second half have been deferred into the new financial year.

SSP Group increased its ordinary dividend for the 2017 financial year to pay out 40% of net income.

CEO Kate Swann commented: “SSP has delivered another good performance in 2017. We have grown our presence across the world, particularly in North America and Asia and we are pleased with the performance of our new business in India. We have invested significant capital in the business this year, our highest to date, and at the same time we are returning cash to shareholders.

“The new financial year has started in line with our expectations and, whilst a degree of uncertainty always exists around passenger numbers in the short term, we continue to be well placed to benefit from the structural growth opportunities in our markets.”

The group said that with the current level of general economic uncertainty, it anticipates slightly lower like-for-like revenue growth next year.

“However the significant structural growth opportunities and our programme to deliver operational improvements leave us well placed to continue to deliver both for our customers and our shareholders.”

SSP’s shares have surged 7.8% this morning to 654.5p - hitting a new all-time high in the process.

Morning update

Chancellor Philip Hammond will unveil his Budget at around 12.30pm today that political insiders say will “make or break” his career as the country faces up to uncertainty about its exit from the European Union.

The budget is expected to focus on housing, with new measures for first time buyers and renters expected to be included.

In terms of the grocery industry, with no action expected on business rates or VAT, the most eye-catching policy could be a plan to tax plastic bottles, coffee cups and other packaging. Meanwhile the drinks industry fears beer, wine and spirits could be hit with duty hike in a year.

See our live blog on for all the details this afternoon.

Elsewhere, Finsbury Food Group (FIF) has announced that trading for the first four months of its new financial year is in line with expectations.

Total Group sales revenues grew by 4% to £105.5m during the period – a “pleasing performance which shows resilience and recognises that the UK retail food market has recently transitioned from a deflationary to an inflationary environment”.

Its UK bakery division’s sales increased by 5% in comparison to the corresponding 2016/2017 period, while its overseas division, the group’s 50% owned European business, declined by 3.8% when compared to the corresponding 2016/2017 period.

Finsbury said it has “a strong track record of successfully navigating the previously reported head-winds which continue to face the entire industry… by investing in initiatives which drive efficiency and productivity and therefore offset increases in the group’s cost base”.

Finsbury stated it remained confident it is well-equipped to deliver growth and shareholder value going forward.

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has opened up another 0.3% at 7,433.1pts.

SSP Group shares are surging and elsewhere risers include Reckitt Benckiser (RB), up 2.7% to 6,572p, Nichols (NICL), up 1.5% to 1,609p and McBride (MCB), up 1.4% to 216.5p.

Finsbury Food Group has opened up 1.5% to 105p after its trading announcement this morning.

Fallers include Total Produce (TOT), down 1.9% to 212p, PayPoint (PAY), down 1.5% to 926.5p and Dairy Crest (DCG), down 1.3% to 565p.

Yesterday in the City

Catering giant Compass Group (CPG) posted a solid set of annual results yesterday, but were met with a 3.3% share price drop to 1,538p as investors appeared to be disappointed that organic growth was at the lower end of expectations and the market harbours concerns about the sector given weak trading at rivals Sodexo and Elior.

Imperial Brands (IMB) jumped 3.4% to 3,130p after rival tobacco firm Japan Tobacco ignited takeover talk after its new CEO said it was “actively looking” to consolidate in the sector. British American Tobacco (BATS) also rose 1.8% to 5,091p on the news.

The FTSE 100 ended the day up 0.3% to 7,411.3pts.

Other risers included PZ Cussons (PZC), up 2.5% to 318p, Tesco (TSCO), up 1.1% to 189p, Majestic Wine (WINE), up 4% to 382.3p, Hotel Chocolat (HOTC), up 3.2% to 358p and PayPoint (PAY), up 3% to 941p.

Other fallers included Ocado (OCDO), down 2% to 243.3p, B&M European Value Retail (BME), down 1.9% to 391.4p, Nichols (NICL), down 3.9% to 1,585p and Real Good Food (RGD), down 4.4% to 22p.