JSE-listed Bidcorp has delivered "pleasing results" with the foodservice group's half-year performance in line with management expectations, CEO Bernard Berson said on Wednesday.
Headline earnings a share increased by 8.6% to 640c a share in the six months ended December 31, from 589.3c a share a year earlier, with basic earnings a share increasing by 9.4% to 644.5c a share, compared with 589.3c a share in the corresponding period.
Profit for the period increased by 4% to R2.08-billion.
Net revenue of R61.5-billion, grew by 7.7% year-on-year, which Berson noted "reflects the company's focus in the core foodservice markets in all geographies."
This, he added, was despite significant inflation in certain categories of products, especially dairy. However, overall food inflation across the basket remained largely benign, which he said demonstrated growth in its market share across all operations.
The company maintained a gross profit percentage at 23.6%, compared with 23.8% in the first half of the previous financial year. Operating expenses remained "well controlled", increasing by 3.6% on a like-for-like basis in absolute terms, despite ongoing wage pressure in several economies.
Berson stated that South Africa's like-for-like sales grew by 6.4% in South African rand, with profits increasing by 12.6% year-on-year.
Outside of Africa, in the company's Australasian operations, Berson said that the region continued to make a substantial contribution and remained the biggest profit generator for Bidcorp. Revenue in this region moved 3.6% higher to R15.9-billion, compared with the R15.3-billion in the first half of the 2017 financial year. Trading profits rose marginally by 0.1% to R944.9-billion.
Revenue in the UK rose by 5.3% to R16.2-million, from R15.4-billion, while trading profits increased by 3.4% to R723.9-million.
In Europe, Berson stated that most businesses performed strongly, particularly the Eastern European jurisdictions which continued to report good growth. Revenue rose 20% to R19.6-billion, compared with R16.3-million of the first half of 2017, while trading profits rose by 38.7% to R817-million.
Berson reported that the group's financial position remained strong. Its net debt was R3.4-billion, which reflects the impact of ongoing investment and acquisitions.
The company has declared an interim cash dividend of 280c a share, which is a 12% increase on the previous financial year's interim dividend.
Meanwhile, Bidcorp announced that Brian Joffe would retire as chairperson of the company on March 31, but that he would remain on as a nonexecutive director.
Stephen Koseff will assume the role of independent nonexecutive chairperson on the same day.
Also, in attendance at the results presentation on Wednesday was Bidcorp CFO David Cleasby, and representatives of the company's international operations.