Profits rise 9pc at Booker as it defends £3.7bn deal with Tesco
WHOLESALER Booker has defended its deal with Tesco in the wake of fresh opposition by delivering a 9pc jump in half-year profits on the back of strong growth in its catering business.
Charles Wilson, its chief executive, said the company’s proposed £3.7bn takeover with Tesco was on track to complete by “early 2018” and it continued to be “business as usual” for the company until the deal is completed.
Last week seven of the UK’s largest wholesalers called for the competition watchdog to block the deal as it threatened “the survival of the independent retailer”.
Mr Wilson said he believed that customers “will benefit from better choice, better prices and services” if the Tesco deal completes.
The Competition and Markets Authority is expected to finalise its provisional findings by the end of this month.
“Recent calls from the UK’s seven biggest wholesalers for the CMA to block the Tesco-Booker merger have created a cloud of uncertainty around the prospects of a deal for investors,” said Julie Palmer of Begbies Traynor.
Booker recorded a rise in pre-tax profits from £81m to £88m for the 24 weeks to Sept 8.
Sales rose by 2.5pc, driven by 7.5pc of non-tobacco sales, which helped to offset a 9pc slump in tobacco sales.
Just under half of Booker’s total sales comes from its catering arm, which supplies pubs, hotels, restaurants and small businesses. Booker said that sales to caterers grew by 8.1pc during the period, compared to 1pc in the wider market. The company increased its interim dividend by 10pc to 0.69p a share.
Charles Wilson, chief executive of Booker, said it was business as usual for the wholesaler, until the Tesco deal completes