Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Safeway Profits Hold Up amid Five-Way Bid Race

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Safeway Profits Hold Up amid Five-Way Bid Race

Article excerpt

Byline: FIONA WALSH

FIRST-quarter profits at Safeway will match the previous year's figure, excluding bid-related costs, despite the distractions of the ferocious five-way battle for control of Britain's fourth-largest supermarkets group.

Chairman David Webster described the performance as "a remarkable achievement in current circumstances".

But group like-for-like sales have fallen 0.6% in the first 12 weeks of the financial year. They were 0.8% ahead in the first six weeks but Safeway had already warned of a slowdown, as comparisons included the boost last year from football's World Cup and Golden Jubilee-related sales, together with the launch of four megastores.

Total sales for the quarter were ahead by 1.1%. Webster said cashflow, working capital and stock levels had also improved.

The group, which has 480 stores, has put its refit programme on hold and cut back costly price promotionsin an attempt to stabilise performance as the bid battle rages.

Today's figures were pretty much as analysts had expected, and the shares gained 21/2p to 264p.

Meanwhile, the 150 Safeway shareholders attending today's AGM at the Dorchester Hotel in London had to run a gauntlet of 30 protesters to get into the meeting.

Largely from Friends of the Earth, they criticised the potential takeover of the group because, they claim, it will jeopardise local shops and farmers, and reduce consumer choice. …

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