Booker preparing to exploit opportunities

Booker Group is well positioned to weather the economic downturn, and may well find new opportunities because of it, according to chief executive Charles Wilson.

Speaking after the company published its latest results showing sales and profits up, Wilson said debt had been cut to pound;28.9m, less than 10% of the figure when he took charge at Booker three years ago. He added: “The figure that gives me most pleasure though is non-tobacco sales. When I took over they were negative 6.1%. Now they are positive 4.7%.”

He also suggested that if larger retailers or hospitality companies got into trouble in the downturn, this could provide opportunities for new entrepreneurs who would use cash and carries.

Although one of the Icelandic banks that collapsed last week is a major share holder in the group, Wilson said this would have no effect on Booker. He pointed out that the group has a diverse range of shareholders and said that as the company had no need for equity, there would be no effect on cash in the company or its service.

Wilson also revealed that commercial director Bryan Drew and operations director Bryn Satherley would be joining the board of the company. He said: “They have both played major roles in Booker’s recovery, and they will broaden the knowledge and experience on the board.”

In its interim results for the six months to September 12, sales were up 2.1% to pound;1.5bn and pre-tax profit was up 28.6% to pound;26.5m.

Like-for-like non tobacco sales were up 4.1% compared with the same period last year, but tobacco sales were down 3.2%, meaning overall like-for like sales were up 1.1%.

Sales to caterers increased by 4.7%, but the company blamed the smoking ban in public places for a decline of 0.5% in sales to retailers.

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