Morrisons back in black

Supermarket group Morrisons has moved back into profit, six months after posting its first annual loss.

Pre-tax profits for the 25 weeks to 23 July came in at £134.2m, compared with an £82.1m loss last time.

The Bradford-based retailer said it was starting to see the benefits of its £3bn purchase of Safeway in 2004, the acquisition and integration of which pushed it into the red.

Excluding fuel, like-for-like sales rose 4.6% during the period. The group added that turnover was flat at £5.85bn, but said the performance was "satisfactory" given that 66 stores closed during the period.

Customer numbers were also reported to be up 5.3% on a like-for-like basis, and stores converted to the Morrisons's format had put in a "particularly strong performance" in bringing in new shoppers, the retailer claimed.

Chairman Sir Ken Morrison said the turnaround of the company following the integration of Safeway was ahead of schedule with sales at its 373 stores "stronger than anticipated".

"We have more customers now than ever before in our history," he added.

"Our business is growing again, and we are well on track with our targeted profit improvements."

However, the results were announced just hours after the latest data from TNS Worldpanel claimed Morrisons's market share dropped to 11%, in the 12 weeks to 10 September, down from 11.2% for the same period last year.

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