LONDON May 15 Compass Group, the
world's biggest caterer, posted an 8 percent rise in first half
profit and said a strong pipeline of new work in North America
and emerging markets gave it confidence for its full-year
The firm, which operates in some 50 countries and serves 4
billion meals a year, said on Wednesday underlying pretax profit
for the six months to March 31 rose 8.1 percent to 611 million
pounds ($932 million) on revenues up 4.1 percent to 8.8 billion
pounds, in line with analysts' consensus forecast.
The strong performance enabled the group to raise its
interim dividend 11 percent to 8.0 pence per share.
The group, which provides catering to everyone from schools
and hospitals to offshore rigs and the Wimbledon tennis, said
revenue growth had been driven in particular by new contracts
and retentions in its core North American market and in
Australia's oil and gas industry.
As expected, in Europe, where the firm is cutting
loss-making contracts and selling businesses in the south to
offset weak markets, revenue fell at constant currency, although
its operating profit margin increased due to cost savings.
The firm, which makes 35 percent of revenue in its Europe
and Japan division, said it had started to see hospitality
budgets being squeezed in countries like Sweden and the Czech
Republic, while France has worsened in recent months.
Last month world No.2 catering firm Sodexo
forecast flat operating profit this year and expanded cost
cutting plans after conditions in Continental Europe
Compass said group organic revenue growth was 4.1 percent
including the negative impact of Easter timing, or 4.8 percent
on a comparable working days basis, in line with forecasts.
Shares in Compass closed at 870 pence on Tuesday, up 38
percent on a year ago and valuing the business at around 16