The Co-Operative Group is back on track as it unveils profit growth and flat group revenues

 
Catherine Neilan
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The Co-Operative Group has said it is "firmly on track" as it unveils like-for-like growth in its food, convenience and funerals businesses and a rise in underlying profit.

The figures

The struggling business heralded "stable" group revenues at £9.3bn (though this was down from £9.4bn last year), with food like-for-likes up 1.6 per cent, and volumes up five per cent. Core convenience business was up 3.8 per cent - ahead of the market - thanks to investment in price and product.

Sales in its funerals business rose 9.9 per cent, "driven by the highest death rate since 2008". The general insurance side of the group grew in line with expectations.

All that means the Co-op has posted a group underlying pre-tax profit of £81m for the year to 2 January, up from £73m last year.

However pre-tax profit was down from £124m to £23m "reflecting major investment in the year and 2014 profits being bolstered by £121m from one-off disposals".

And the firm warned that the current financial year would generate lower profits because of continued investment.

Why it's interesting

This was the first of a three-year "rebuild", which includes increased capital expenditure to £320m. Key areas of investment included reducing food prices, which has led to a 15 per cent cut in fruit and vegetable prices.

The food wars have been taking their toll on most of the more established supermarkets, but as figures out this week showed, the Co-op has been surprisingly resilient of late.

Still, the company is not standing still when it comes to bolstering the bottom line. Last night it was revealed that Co-op boss Richard Pennycook had requested for his pay to be cut because it's "the right thing to do for the business".

This morning the business confirmed and gave the full details of just how much his pay will go down by.

What the Co-op said

Pennycook said: "Whether it's our investment in lowering prices, rewarding colleagues or campaigning on key issues, we are taking the right steps and the performance of our businesses and the feedback from our members shows us we are on the right track.

"We are, however, only one year into our rebuild and whether it is driving further growth in our businesses, improving member engagement or getting back to our campaigning roots, there is still much to achieve.

"We are championing a better way of doing business for our customers and communities and working with our colleagues and members we're confident that we have a strong plan to achieve our goals."

Allan Leighton, independent non-executive chair, added: "The Co-op's confidence is growing and our members, customers and colleagues are starting to see the difference. We are now the UK's most frequently visited food retailer, while our other core businesses, from Funerals to General Insurance, are also showing strong signs of progress."

In short

A promising start to the Co-op's turnaround.

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