upper crust ssp

Despite struggles in grocery and restaurants, food to go continues to go from strength to strength. On Wednesday Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza owner SSP reported a double-digit hike in annual sales and profits that beat expectations, and a £100m payout for shareholders that sent shares soaring.

Total revenues for the year to 30 September rose 11.7% to £2.4bn on a constant currency basis, up 19.5% at actual exchange rates given the weak pound. Like-for-like sales were up 3.1% driven by growth in air passenger travel, albeit its performance was weaker in the rail sector. Revenue growth was supported by net contract gains of 6%, with net gains of 23% in North America.

There was progress on the bottom line too, with underlying operating profit rising 27% on a constant currency basis to £162.9m and by 34.2% at actual exchange rates. The group’s outperformance and dividend payment saw its share price hit a new all-time closing high of 658p on Wednesday - some 92% up year-on-year. It priced its London float at 210p per share in July 2014.

Another big riser this week was Majestic Wine, which on Thursday reported better than anticipated first-half figures as its Naked Wines online service returned to strong growth.

Overall sales in the six months to 2 October were up 5.7% (4.2% underlying) to £217.3m with underlying sales growth at Naked up 10.9% as North America in particular returned to growth. Majestic’s retail operations grew sales by 2.3% to £120.6m, which marked a slowdown as higher prices hit volumes, but profitability improved. Majestic’s share jumped 10.3% to 422.5p on Thursday - now up almost 50% year-on-year and back above its trading levels before a profits warning in June saw the shares drop to little over 300p.

Finally, tobacco firm Imperial Brands bounced back from a two-year low this week, jumping 3.4% back to 3,130p after rival tobacco firm Japan Tobacco’s new CEO ignited takeover talk by saying that it was “actively looking” to consolidate in the sector.