8 November 2011 – interim results

Although revenues in the six months to 30 September rose by 2.4% to £4.7bn, pressure on margins led to a fall in underlying profit before tax as these declined to £315m (2010: £348m).  Underlying earnings per share fell to 15.6p (2010: 16.6p) and the interim dividend is maintained at 6.2p.  Net debt at the end of the period fell to £1.97bn from £2.2bn a year earlier.  A strong performance in food offset weaker sales in general merchandise and the group says that it is well prepared for the important Christmas trading season.  The shares have done well for us since we tipped them at 309.4p at the end of August, but today’s run on the back of the figures may well see them consolidate at around this level.  HOLD.