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Forecourt trader Applegreen (APGN) is continuing to explore opportunities in the US, chairman Daniel Kitchen will announce at its AGM this morning.

The group converted a further two sites in the US to 7-Eleven convenience stores in the first five months of 2019.

“The US business is performing well and we continue to explore new opportunities in this market,” chairman Daniel Kitchen will tell shareholders.

“In the UK, the performance of Welcome Break has been satisfactory despite more challenging trading conditions in 2019 as ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit has impacted on consumer sentiment.”

The management team has successfully integrated this business and Applegreen continues to progress with the delivery of synergy benefits, he will say.

Kitchen will tell shareholders the group has continued to selectively invest in “quality” sites with strong return potential.

Nine sites have been added to the portfolio since the end of December. Six new sites were added in Ireland and three new sites in the UK.

Kitchen will say that trading for the overall group has been in line with expectations for the first five months of 2019.

He will say the legacy Applegreen business is performing strongly year on year even though adverse weather events negatively impacted previous-year comparators.

“We are pleased with the performance of the business in Ireland where trading conditions remain good,” Kitchen will tell the AGM.

Morning update

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 climbed 0.4% in early trading to 7217.7pts.

Early risers include PayPoint (PAY), up 1.9% to 1,909p, McBride (MCB), up 1.6% at 84.7p, Ocado (OCDO), making up a little of yesterday’s losses, up 1.4% at 1,127.6p and Glanbia (GLB), up 1.1% at €15.09.

Fallers so far today include Hilton Food Group (HFG), down 3.7% to 959p, Applegreen (APGN), off 2.1% at 452.5p, ahead of this morning’s AGM, Premier Foods (PFD), down 2% at 34.3p and AG Barr (BAG), down 1.1% at 923.1p.

Yesterday in the City

Sainsbury’s (SBRY) chief executive Mike Coupe has reiterated his confidence in the group’s strategy as a standalone business in the retailer’s 2019 annual report posted online.

“We know what we need to do to respond to changing customer shopping habits and an increasing focus on value,” he says.

He reports on the integration of Argos, delivering synergies of £160m nine months ahead of its original schedule.

Coupe says SmartShop, which allows customers to scan their shopping using a hand-held device or their mobile phone is now available in more than 100 supermarkets.

And, as it develop its Nectar offer, Sainsbury’s is testing a new digital proposition in Wales which gives customers greater choice over their rewards “managed conveniently via their mobile phones”.

Coupe says that customers rate the business first for food quality, but the group knows there is more to do to make its commodity products better value for customers and grow sales in those categories.

“We have completed the Sainsbury’s store transformation and made significant improvements to store standards in recent months and this will continue to be a focus this year, using our new customer feedback service, Lettuce Know, to inform store managers on how customers feel about shopping in their specific store in real time,” he says.

“We are investing significantly in our store estate this year – we trialled enhanced beauty ranges, wellness aisles and new concession partnerships last year and will be rolling these out to more stores this year. In total, we will invest in over 400 supermarkets this year.”

The report reveals that Coupe enjoyed an almost 7% overall pay increase in the past financial year. He earned £3.88m in the year to March 9, up from £3.63m the previous year.

Finance chief Kevin O’Byrne saw his total pay increase from almost £1.5m to £2.2m, and John Rogers, who heads the Argos business, from £2.3m to £2.5m.

The FTSE 100 closed up 0.4% at 7,214.3pts. Hilton Food Group (HFG) picked up 4.8% to 996p, Imperial Brands (IMB), 3.6% at 1,938p, British American Tobacco (BATS), climbed 2.6% to 2,838p and Marston’s (MARS) edged 2.2% higher at 108.5p.

FTSE 100 fallers included Ocado (OCDO), down 5% at 1,113p, PURE Circle (PURE), down 2.4% at 265.5p, PZ Cussons (PZC), off 2.19% at 201p and Fevertree Drinks (FEVR) fell 2% to 2,585p.