Booker has announced a 2.7% increase in like-for-like sales in the first half, despite a slump in tobacco sales.

Like-for-like non tobacco sales rose 7.7%, but tobacco like-for-likes dropped by 8.7% due to “changes in legislation”, the wholesaler revealed in its interim results for the 24 weeks ending 8 September.

Total sales grew 2.5% to £2.6bn while pre-tax profit increased 9% to £88.0m.

The Competition and Markets Authority is expected to reveal its provisional findings of the in-depth ‘Phase 2’ investigation of Booker’s proposed merger with Tesco by the end of October, with the final opinion likely in December, chief executive Charles Wilson said.

Booker’s independent retail customers “performed well” in the first half. Londis’ non-tobacco sales grew by 21.4%, Premier’s by 11.0%, and Budgens’ by 3.0%. But Wilson said he was confident Budgens would soon enjoy double digit sales growth. The number of stores are opening by three a week, with interest and recruitment in the brand “never stronger”, added Budgens director Mike Baker. 

The number of Premier outlets now stands at 3,394, up from 3,358 in 2016. Family Shopper stores have grown in number to 61. 

Wilson added: “Booker Group continues to make good progress with like-for-like non tobacco sales up 7.7%. Our plans to focus, drive and broaden Booker Group are on track. The competition review of the planned merger with Tesco is progressing.”