Central England Co-op

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Sales jumped 3.6% at the Central England Co-operative in the first half of 2018 following continued investment into store openings.

The business, which has 240 food stores across 16 counties, also grew profits 8.4% as it battled “challenging and highly competitive” trading conditions.

Sales up to 30 June 2018 rose 3.6% to £476.9m, as the regional retailer invested £12.4m in new stores including, six new food shops.

More capital expenditure is planned for the rest of the year and 2019, with new store openings and refurbishments in the pipeline, it said.

Despite competition pressures, the Central England Co-Op also grew profits for the period, up £1m to £12.9m.

The food retail arm of the business enjoyed a “good performance”, with like-for-like sales in its convenience stores outperforming the market, it said.

Fluctuations in whether proved positive, with the harsh winter and hot summer providing “exceptional sales”, it added.

“We have had an encouraging first half of the year, reflecting the hard work of our colleagues and continued focus across the Society in providing great service and products to our members and customers,” said chief executive, Martyn Cheatle.

“Our performance so far in 2018 has again demonstrated the Society’s resilience as a strong and successful independent co-operative business.

“However, our resilience continues to be tested by tough trading conditions which we expect to remain challenging and highly competitive for the foreseeable future.

“We remain confident in our strategy and our co-operative point of difference to deliver sustainable business growth and provide a relevant and attractive proposition to our members, customers and local communities.”

The co-operative also reduced its carbon footprint by 48% and also announced the roll-out of a food redistribution project across all its food stores.

Morning update

Agriculture group Carr’s (CARR) has bolstered its position in animal health with the £8.5m acquisition of Suffolk supplier Animax.

The deal will see Carr’s buy animal health brand Animax and partner disinfectant brand Clinimax for £6m with an additional payment up to £2.5m in the next two years.

The move will provide numerous efficiencies for Carr’s across its manufacturing business, and the company says it will invest into new products and research.

“We are delighted to announce the acquisition of Animax. This acquisition is in line with our stated strategy of developing our offering in the growing livestock specialist nutrition market both in the UK and internationally,” said chief executive, Tim Davies.

“Animax is highly complementary to our global feed block business and will add value to our customers’ businesses.

“Animax has a history of developing market leading products based on sound research with their brands being recognised for their efficacy and performance.”

Brexit-related commodity inflation has eaten into the profits of two more major UK food suppliers, according to figures released this week.

Biscuit giant United Biscuits, now part of Pladis, and listed private label bakery Finsbury Food Group have both revealed that mounting input costs have hit their bottom lines.

Read the full story and the rest of this week’s finance stories at thegrocer.co.uk/finance later this morning.

Positive sentiment to the latest round of US tariffs has boosted the FTSE 100, which has moved up 0.8% to 7,426.9pts in early trading.

Early risers this morning include British American Tobacco (BATS), up 1.3% to 3,566p, Imperial Brands (IMB), up 1.1% to 2,621p and SSP Group (SSPG), up 1% to 724.9p.

Early fallers include Just Eat (JE.), as news circulates of Uber’s interest in buying competitor Deliveroo, falling 6.6% to 661p. Others include McBride (MCB), down 2.5% to 152.1p, PayPoint (PAY), down 1.7% to 901p, and Premier Foods (PFD), down 0.7% to 41.5p.

Yesterday in the city

The FTSE 100 rose 0.5% to 7,367pts as the pound weakened due to the continuing Brexit impasse, as Theresa May meets with EU leaders in Salzburg.

Despite announcing that sales and profits are likely to be reduced due to weaknesses across a number of emerging markets currencies, Diageo (DGE) jumped 1.6% to 2,655p.

Nestle also saw some share growth, rising 1% to 80.8 Swiss francs, after it announced the company was looking to sell its Skin Health arm as part of its wider strategy to focus on nutrition, health and wellness.

Other risers included Carr’s Group (CARR), up 3.4% to 150p, Real Good Food (RGF), up 3.3% to 7.8p, Stock Spirit Group (STCK), up 2.9% to 198p and Hotel Chocolat Group (HOTC), up 2.5% to 338.3p.

Fallers included stevia producer, Purecircle (PURE), down 6.1% to 354.5p, Greencore (GNC), down 3.2% to 177p and Marston’s, down 2.7% to 98.6p (MARS).