Iceland cheers higher profits

Marion Dakers
FROZEN foods chain Iceland raised its pre-tax profit by almost 20 per cent last year, after taking advantage of the demise of Woolworths to expand into 51 town centres.

Sales at the retailer rose by more than 10 per cent to a record £2.3bn, boosting pre-tax profit for the year to £135.4m.

Underlying earnings also reached record levels, up 11.2 per cent to £184.2m.

The group ended the year with a much smaller debt pile, down from £85.4m to £7.6m, despite funding capital expenditure of £54.5m to open a record 74 new shops.

Many of the new openings took place in the town centre stores that Iceland bought from defunct retailer Woolworths in January 2009, creating around 2,500 new jobs.

“The UK food retailing market has undoubtedly changed over the last year, with competition becoming more aggressive than ever,” said chief executive Malcolm Walker.

“Nevertheless, I am confident that our proven business model, strong finances, excellent products, outstanding service, loyal customers and committed staff will enable us to make progress in this challenging environment.”

Iceland celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first shop opening in Oswestry, Shropshire in November.

The Iceland brand now appears on 730 shops across the country.