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Chain reports turnaround in fortunes

Co-op Group back from the brink and back in profit

Coop GroupThe Co-operative Group has returned to profit after coming close to the brink of collapse last year.

The group has turned a £255 million loss into a profit before member payments of £124m. Revenue came in at £9.4 billion down from £9.7bn.

It said net debt had fallen from £1.4bn to £808m and it now expects to resume paying a dividend in 2018.

However, the figures were flattered by the sale of its pharmacy business which netted £620m. The group admitted that without that it would “at best, have broken even”.

Underlying operating profit, driven by the food and funerals side of the business, was down 3% to£172m.

Conveniance stores delivered like-for-like growth of 3.2%, while the overall food business sales rose by 0.4%.

In a statement, chief executive Richard Pennycook, said: “We significantly reduced net debt, even after meeting our outstanding contributions to the Co-operative Bank. This followed the successful sales of our farms and pharmacy businesses and detailed work to ensure we have the right cost base in place.

“Our core businesses continued to deliver for customers, with their financial performances reflecting challenging trading conditions across all of our markets and the different stages they are each at in terms of rebuild.

“A significant element of our 2014 profit relates to one-off disposal gains on the sale of our farms and pharmacy businesses and property disposals. Without these we would, at best, have broken even. Against that backdrop, and given the need to invest in all our businesses, the board will not be recommending a dividend to members and believes that a resumption of dividend payments is unlikely until the rebuild phase is complete and we have returned to sustainable profitable growth.”

Picture: Retail Week

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