Asda in food fast lane

A roundup of financial news from industry players

Asda in food fast lane

Asda has been making hay while the sun shines, achieving customer numbers well over 18 million each week. The boom is the result of discount offers which have been luring bargain shoppers.

Asda announced underlying sales growth of 7.2% for the most recent three months, slightly down on the 8.4% rise in the previous three months. The slowdown in sales growth is largely due to a fall in food inflation which has hit a two-year low.

This compares with Tesco's rise of 4.2% and Sainsbury's excellent 7.8% rise. Asda is growing its market share at a faster rate than Tesco. TNS, the market research group, shows Asda has clawed in a 17% market share, up from 16.7% for the same period last year. Tesco has 31% of the market and Sainsbury's has 16%.

Wal-Mart, Asda's US parent, does not disclose profit figures for Asda. Wal-Mart is growing its profit ahead of sales as a result of its focus on a cost reduction programme, and announced a profit of $3.4bn in the three months to the end of July, the same figure it produced in the corresponding quarter last year. Total sales of Wal-Mart fell by 1.4% to $100bn. But for a strong dollar, sales would have increased by 2.7% as a result of the strength of the US giant's international business.

Asda plans to create 7,000 jobs this year and has opened 10 stores since January.

Greggs boosts profits

Greggs, the nation's biggest sausage roll and sandwich maker, kicked in with pre-tax profits up 7.3% for the half year to end June 2009. Profits rose to 16.5m from 15.4m in the same period last year. Greggs has 1,392 stores and hopes to open more than 50 new stores this year. Initially dealers marked the shares down as July rains hit recent sales but they soon recovered. Takings were up 1.6% in the first half but were flat in the six weeks to August 8.

Aldi slows

Aldi, the German discount supermarket chain, announced that sales over the three months to July grew by 8.3%, according to TNS Worldpanel.

This compares with growth of 17% the year before. Paul Foley, boss of UK & Irish divisions, quit following the fall in sales.

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