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Sandwich giant Greencore (GNC) has posted a 5.8% rise in first quarter like for like sales, though headline revenues fell due to the closure of a number of sites.

Overall, the Greencore said it had “performed well… in continued challenging trading conditions” in the 13 weeks to 28 December.

The group achieved revenue from continuing operations of £363.5m in the first quarter, up 5.8% on a pro forma basis excluding disposed sites and those that have ceased trading, driven by food to go growth.

Headline revenues, however, decreased 5.7% on a reported basis.

In food to go pro forma and reported revenue increased by 6.4%.

Revenue in the rest of the group’s continuing operations increased by 4.7% on a pro forma basis in the quarter, but decreased by 21.2% on a reported basis.

Greencore completed the disposal of its US business on 25 November 2018, with its US revenues now counted as discontinued operations. Reported revenue in discontinued operations was £172.8m in the period of ownership.

In December 2018 Greencore announced its intention to return up to approximately £509m by way of a tender offer, at a price of 195 pence per ordinary share. Completion of the tender offer is conditional on shareholder approval at its Annual General Meeting today.

The Group also completed the refinancing of its primary debt agreements in January 2019.

Overall, Greencore said it had made “an encouraging start to the year” and anticipates continued underlying revenue growth in its key convenience food categories.

Adjusted operating profit growth will be driven by this revenue growth, improved operational

On Brexit, it said near-term challenges associated with a ‘no withdrawal agreement’ remain “uncertain”.

Greencore stated: “A strengthened balance sheet and strong underlying free cash generation leaves the Group well positioned to consider organic and inorganic investment consistent with its strategic and returns objectives.

“Over the medium term, the group expects that its market positioning, capability set, customer profile, well invested asset network and proven economic model will generate strong growth, cash generation and returns.”

Greencore will report its interim results on 21 May 2019.

Greencore shares are up 0.4% to 194.6p so far today.

Morning update

Continued economic weakness in its key market of Nigeria has hit half year performance at consumer group PZ Cussons (PZC) as sales and profits fell during the period.

In the six months to 30 November group revenue slumped 10.4% at the Imperial Leather maker to £335.1m, down 4.6% on a constant currency basis.

Adjusted operating profit was 3.8% lower on a reported basis and 1.1% lower on a constant currency basis in the period. Adjusted profit before tax was £32.8m million versus a prior period result of £33.3m.

PZ Cussons said the majority of the decline in both revenue and adjusted operating profit was driven by the “extremely tough” trading conditions in Nigeria.

The group said it suffered from a weak consumer environment in the country, with higher supply chain costs and lower exchange rate contributing to lower prices, volumes and margins.

Sales in Africa slumped by 13.3% on a like for like basis to £111.3m, while operating profits in the region were down 67.7%.

It said its Nigerian portfolio remains under continuous review to ensure the group best placed for when growth returns to the market.

However, it said it had seen “good performance” in Europe and Asia, with sales up 1.4% on a like for like basis in the former and down 0.7% in the latter.

The European sales uplift came despite “macro uncertainty in the UK”, though it took a significant step up in NPD in the UK washing and bathing division to drive growth in key brands of Imperial Leather, Carex and Original Source.

Total adjusted profit before tax for the full year is now expected to be towards £70m driven by conditions in Nigeria, including an estimated £5.5m impact as a result of significant port disruption

Chairman Caroline Silver commented: “”The group continues to make pleasing progress in Europe and Asia, with new product development and increased support across our key brands delivering positive momentum. Disappointingly, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Nigeria remain extremely challenging and continue to have a significant negative impact on overall Group performance.

“We anticipate that consumer demand in all our key markets will remain subdued. Whilst these conditions prevail, we will maintain our strong market shares in key product categories in Nigeria until growth returns to the market. In Personal Care and Beauty across Europe and Asia, identified as sources of growth for the group, we will continue to prioritise higher investment levels behind carefully targeted key brand and market opportunities.

“Furthermore, the board has approved specific strategic initiatives which will streamline our portfolio of activities and limit exposure to volatility in Nigeria, with more information to be provided in due course.”

Elsewhere, German listed meal kits provider HelloFresh has reported a 40%-plus rise of fourth quarter revenues and upgraded its full year sales expectations.

The fast growing firm delivered 54.7 million meals to 2.04 million active customers worldwide in the quarter, which constitutes a growth rate of 42-43% year-on-year to €358m-€362m in group revenue.

Based on preliminary unaudited 2018 results, HelloFresh’s full year 2018 revenue has increased (in constant currency, excluding acquisitions) by 41% y-o-y, exceeding its previous FY guidance of 32% to 37%.

Total group revenue is expected to range from €1.28bn.

The group added that, excluding acquisitions and recently launched new ventures, HelloFresh’s AEBITDA was positive on group level, in the International segment for the first time as well as in the US segment.

Dominik Richter, CEO and co-founder of HelloFresh, commented: “We are looking back at both a very successful Q4 and full year 2018, with high growth momentum, significant improvements to our profitability and strong execution against our key KPIs.

“I am particularly proud that in the International segment we managed to grow revenues by over 50% while delivering our first profitable year. We have allowed millions of customers around the world to eat better and spend time with their families. As the world’s largest meal-kit brand, we will certainly take full advantage of the opportunities lying ahead in 2019.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has clawed back 0.9% to 6,807.4pts.

Troubled PZ Cussons has slumped 9.7% back to 189.3p on this morning’s update. Other fallers include FeverTree (FEVR), down 2.1% to 2,546.6p, Devro (DVO), down 1.8% to 155p and Science in Sport (SIS), down 0.9% to 53.5p.

Risers include British American Tobacco (BATS), up 4.8% to 2,489.5p, Imperial Brands (IMB), up 2.1% to 2,412p, Finsbury Food Group (FIF), up 1.8% to 87p and Premier Foods (PFD),m up 1.5% to 37p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 once more started the week on the back foot, slumping 0.9% to 6,747.1pts.

Tesco (TSCO) fell 1.7% yesterday back to 221p after news emerged Tesco was planning a staffing shake-up to see counters closed in up to 100 stores and the loss of around 4,500 jobs.

Fellow supermarkets Sainsbury’s (SBRY) fell 1.3% to 279p while Morrisons (MRW) was down 0.8% to 233.5p.

Other notable fallers included Imperial Brands (IMB), down 2.4% to 2,361.5p, B&M European Value Retail (BME), down 2.3% to 325.8p, FeverTree (FEVR), down 1.8% to 2,601p after last week’s double-digit share price jump, and Associated British Foods (ABF), down 1.8% to 2,601p.

Also falling were McColl’s (MCLS), down 2.8% to 61.2p, Hilton Food Group (HFG), down 2.5% to 922p, C&C Group (CCR), down 2.3% to €3.24 and WH Smith (SMWH), down 1.1% to 1,961p.

Amongst the fewer risers yesterday were Ocado (OCDO), which rose 2.1% as news emerged of talks with Marks & Spencer (MKS) over an online delivery partnership.

Also on the up were Finsbury Food Group (FIF), up 3.6% to 85.5p, Bakkavor (BAKK), up 1.2% to 137.6p, Nichols (NICL), up 1.4% to 1,620p, Kerry Group (KYGA), up 1.4% to €89.65, Premier Foods (PFD), up 1.3% to 36.5p and Dairy Crest (DCG), up 1% to 459.6p.