Cigarette decline drags growth but sales rise at Booker as it gets on with "business as usual"

 
Alys Key
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Booker is getting on with "business as usual"

Booker Group said it was "business as usual" while it awaits the verdict on its proposed merger with Tesco, as the wholesaler unveiled a rise in sales for the 24 weeks to 8 September.

The figures

Total sales increased 2.5 per cent to £2.6bn, with all the growth from non-tobacco products as tobacco sales dropped nine per cent.

Pre-tax profit jumped nine per cent to £88m. The group increased its interim dividend 10 per cent to 69p.

Why it's interesting

Booker said it expects the merger with Tesco to go ahead in early 2018, subject to approval from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and shareholders.

Meanwhile the business is focusing on its own operations. The decline in tobacco sales tallies with an industry-wide trend following even tighter restrictions on pack size in the latest EU directive. Rival cigarette distributor Palmer and Harvey is currently in the midst of a rescue deal.

What Booker said

Due to the status of the takeover process, Booker did not make any forward-looking statements.

Chief executive Charles Wilson said that plans were on track and the competition review was "progressing".

He added:

We continue to help our retail, catering and small business customers prosper through improving our choice, prices and service.

Read more: Tesco resumes divi after three years: How City experts reacted

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