Woolworths has posted a 37.6% rise in net profit after tax to $969 million for the half-year ended December 2017.
Adjusted for earnings from the company’s fuel operation — which Woolworths plans to sell — net profit from ongoing operations rose by 14.7% to $902 million.
Australian food sales rose by 4.9% from the previous year to $19.339 billion, and comparable sales also rose by 4.9%.
In the drinks category, sales increased by 4.8% to $4.5 billion, with comparable sales up by 4.7% in the second quarter.
The increases in headline food and liquor sales outpaced the gains reported by Wesfamers-owned Coles earlier this week, which showed sales growth of 1.9%.
Woolworths first half sales summary:
Overall revenue for the Woolworths group rose by 0.9% to $32.265 billion.
The company announced an interim dividend of 43 cents per share — up 26.5% from the previous year.
“At the end of the 2017 financial year, we said that we were moving from turnaround to transformation. In the current half we have seen some early signs of this transformation with good progress on a number of strategic initiatives and pleasing sales growth from all of our businesses,” said Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci.
Contributing to the strong profit result, the group also reported improved margins in headline food & liquor sales.
Earnings before interest and tax on Australian food sales rose to $901 million — an increase of 11.1%.
Among the group’s continuing operations, strong profit gains across food, liquor and hotels were slightly offset by falls at Big W and the group’s New Zealand stores.
“In Australian Food, we will begin to cycle the strong second half sales recovery in the 2017 financial year which may see a moderation in the sales growth rate for the second half,” Banducci said.
“We will continue to focus on delivering against the BIG W turnaround plan and expect a better second half result than the prior year, with the FY18 loss before interest and tax currently expected to be $80 – $120 million.”
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