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Britain's Morrisons suffers first quarterly sales fall since 2016

LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Morrisons, Britain’s No. 4 grocer, reported a 5.3% rise in first-half profit, though quarterly underlying sales fell for the first time since 2016, partly reflecting tough comparative numbers with last year when sales were boosted by a hot summer.

For the six months to Aug. 4, the Bradford, northern England, based company made an pretax profit before one-off items of 198 million pounds ($244 million). That compared to analysts’ average forecast of 192 million pounds and 188 million pounds made in the same period last year.

Group like-for-like sales, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, fell 1.9% in its second quarter, having increased 2.3% in the first quarter. Analysts had on average forecast a 2.0% fall.

Morrisons said that for the second half, it was planning both for retail like-for-like sales to improve and for various additional cost saving opportunities. ($1 = 0.8115 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle)

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