Booker sales slow

Britain's biggest cash and carry wholesaler Booker (BOK.L) said it was on course to make profit expectations for the 2012-13 year even though sales growth slowed in its first quarter, dragged back by falling tobacco sales.

The firm, which runs over 170 branches supplying convenience stores, restaurants, pubs, schools and prisons, said on Wednesday its total sales rose 1.7 per cent in the 12 weeks to 22 June.

While non tobacco sales increased 3.9 per cent, tobacco sales fell 1.7 per cent, with demand adversely impacted by a rise in duty.

Group like-for-like sales also increased by 1.7 per cent, down from a rise of 4.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

Although inflation is easing British consumers are still being squeezed by meagre wages growth and government austerity measures designed to cut record debt.

Shares in Booker, which have increased by 20 per cent over the last six months, closed Tuesday at 87.5 pence, valuing the business at £1.51bn.

In May Booker purchased the loss-making UK cash & carry operations of German retailer Metro in a £140 million pounds cash and shares deal.