UPDATE 1-Wholesaler Booker reports smaller sales rise, shares fall

Wed Jul 9, 2014 4:01am EDT

(Adds details, analyst comments, share movement)

July 9 (Reuters) - Booker Group Plc, Britain's biggest cash-and-carry wholesaler, reported a smaller rise in first-quarter sales but said it was on track to meet full-year expectations.

Shares in the wholesaler fell 3.2 percent in early trading on the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Booker had reported a 13.6 percent rise in total sales for the 12 weeks to June 21, 2013.

"Sales in the first quarter were below our expectations both for the core business and Macro," J.P.Morgan Cazenove said in a note, cutting its February 2015 price target on the stock to 160 pence from 195 pence.

Booker said like-for-like sales, excluding Makro, rose 2.9 percent in the 12 weeks to June 20.

Total non-tobacco sales rose 5.4 percent. Makro's non-tobacco sales were down 12 percent, as the company continued to exit non-profitable categories.

"The company is deliberately shedding unprofitable sales, but we were assuming that the bulk of this process had already been done after the -9 percent like-for-like reported last year," J.P.Morgan Cazenove analysts said about Makro.

Booker runs 172 branches supplying grocery, spirits, tobacco and non-food items to caterers, convenience stores, restaurants and pubs in the UK.

It acquired Makro, the UK business of German retailer Metro AG, in 2012 to reach small firms and hotels.

Booker shares were trading down 2.8 percent at 127.3 pence at 0800 GMT. (Reporting by Aastha Agnihotri and Roshni Menon in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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