Burger King and Upper Crust concession firm SSP sees big profit boost from global air travel demand

Oliver Gill
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SSP announced in September it had joined forces with Paul Hollywood's bakery concept KNEAD

Catering firm SSP, which operates hundreds of global concessions including Upper Crust and Burger King, today said profits had been boosted by the growing global demand for air travel.

Shares rose almost seven per cent this morning with the news £100m is to be returned to shareholders by way of a special dividend.

Annual profits at the FTSE 250 firm jumped by almost a third to £162.9m. Sales were up a fifth to £2.4bn.

Hiking SSP's dividend by 50 per cent to 8.1p per share, boss Kate Swann said sales had been boosted by "substantial new contract openings and further operational improvements".

She said: "We have invested significant capital in the business this year, our highest to date, and at the same time we are returning cash to shareholders.

The new financial year has started in line with our expectations and, whilst a degree of uncertainty always exists around passenger numbers in the short term, we continue to be well placed to benefit from the structural growth opportunities in our markets.

Read more: SSP gobbles up £280m Abu Dhabi airport contract

UK and Ireland is SSP's largest and most profitable of its four wholly-owned geographical divisions. The firm upped profit margins to 10.4 per cent, with profits up 23.6 per cent to £82.1m.

The firm said: "Like-for-like growth was particularly strong in the air sector, driven by continued growth in UK airport passenger numbers and increased spend per passenger. Trading in the rail sector continues to be soft."

SSP is banking on a huge expansion in India through its TFS joint venture with K Hospitality Group. Revenue over the 10 months since it started was £65.2m, generating operating profit of £12.9m – a profit margin of double of the UK.

Swann said: "We have grown our presence across the world, particularly in North America and Asia and we are pleased with the performance of our new business in India."

Read more: Profits rise at travel caterer SSP after summer holiday boom

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