Booker's first-half profit rises on demand from small retailers

Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:39am EDT

Oct 18 (Reuters) - Booker Group Plc, Britain's biggest cash-and-carry wholesaler, reported a 13 percent rise in its first-half profit as demand from caterers and small retailers held up in unusually wet weather and weak consumer spending in the UK.

The company's results exclude the operations of Makro, the money-losing UK business which Booker acquired from German retailer Metro AG in July.

"As we are uncertain as to the precise date of consolidation, we expect Makro to have an adverse impact on the group's operating profit to March 2013 of the order of nil to 10 million pounds," the company said in a statement.

Makro is being treated as a separate investment until UK's competition regulators give the go-ahead to the deal.

Booker, which runs over 170 branches supplying caterers, convenience stores, grocers, restaurants and pubs, said revenue in the second half was ahead of the same period last year.

Pretax profit rose to 51 million pounds ($82.45 million) from 45 million pounds a year earlier. Revenue increased 3.3 percent to about 1.90 billion pounds.

Total like-for-like sales rose 3.1 percent, with comparable tobacco sales increasing 1.8 percent.

Like-for-like sales excluding the sale of tobacco grew 3.8 percent.

The company raised its interim dividend to 0.38 pence per share from 0.33 pence a year earlier.

Booker's shares closed at 94.35 pence on the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday. They have risen 28 percent this year.

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