Contract wins give Compass fuel for growth

COMPASS, the world’s biggest caterer, yesterday said a succession of new contract wins and an improvement in operating margin were behind a 14 per cent increase in first-half pre-tax profit.

The group, which counts Chelsea Football Club, London’s O2 arena, the Bank of England and the US Senate among its clients, said it had delivered a strong performance in challenging trading conditions. New business wins during the period included contracts to provide catering services to Visa, Nestle, Microsoft and the 2010 US Open Golf Championship.

Compass, which feeds 386,000 people in over 50 countries and serves 4bn meals each year, said underlying pretax profit for the six months to 31 March totalled £462m, up from £405m the year before. The group’s underlying operating margin rose 50 basis points to seven per cent as the company focused on improving operating efficiencies through supplier and product rationalisation, logistics and waste reduction.

Chief executive Richard Cousins said the group expected to deliver another 200 basis points of margin improvement over the longer term.

Investec upgraded its full-year pre-tax profit forecast to £880m from £860m.