Booker cashes in on catering boom

Marion Dakers
WHOLESALER Booker yesterday posted a 2.3 per cent rise in sales for its fourth quarter, and said profits for the year will be in line with expectations.

The cash and carry firm’s sales for the year rose 3.5 per cent to £4bn, and like-for-like sales were up 3.3 per cent.

Sales to caterers jumped by 6.2 per cent, which Shore Capital analyst Clive Black described as excellent, while a two per cent rise in sales to retailers “was a little more subdued but credible”, he added in a note.

Overall customer numbers rose five per cent to 504,000, while online turnover was up 11 per cent to £704m.

Booker’s Makro business, which it bought last July and has not included in yesterday’s sales figures, is trading as expected. The Competition Commission is set to formally clear the purchase by 24 April, Booker said in its update.

It has also made further inroads into India, opening its third branch in Mumbai during the period.

The firm had around £77m net cash at the end of the financial year, up from £63m a year ago.

“In a challenging environment, Booker has continued to grow non tobacco sales by 4.3 per cent through improving customer satisfaction,” said Charles Wilson, chief executive of the FTSE 250-listed company.