Booker avoids "distractions" over Tesco merger

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Booker‘s focus on “business as usual” in advance of the planned merger with Tesco has yielded “market-leading revenue growth”, according to chief executive Charles Wilson.

Group sales reached £5.3bn, up 6.7%, in the year to 24 March 2017 with operating profit up 14% to £176.1m. Sales to retailers reached £3.4bn, of which more than £1.7bn is accounted for by the company’s four symbol groups, and Premier had a record year for store recruitment, while Londis also added more than 650 stores and is in double-digit growth, the company maintained. IT systems between the core Booker estate and the former Musgrave brands have been successfully integrated, meaning that the full Londis fresh food offer is now available to all Premier retailers.

Tobacco sales have been “weak” in the run up to the EUTPD 2 deadline, and this has impacted on like-for-like sales to retailers, which were down 0.6%, explained Wilson.

“As 90% of the tobacco skus that independent retailers stock have been banned in the last year, the independent sector has seen a lot more change in tobacco than the multiples,” he said.

The approval timetable for the merger with Tesco is “up to the CMA to decide”, said Wilson, adding that engagement with the competition body has begun and that the merger is still on course to complete in late 2017 or early 2018.

“We believe that working with Tesco will improve the offer to consumers, and improve choice, price and service we offer to retail customers,” he said. “A lot of our competitors were hoping we would be distracted by this, but focusing on business as usual has actually brought in market-leading performance.”

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