Prof­its rise 9pc at Booker as it de­fends £3.7bn deal with Tesco

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Ash­ley Arm­strong

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

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