THE Co-operative Group eyed a period of consolidation today following the additions of supermarket Somerfield and building society Britannia.
Announcing a 17% rise in interim profits to £228.8 million, the Co-op said the second half of the year would see it focus on integrating the two businesses and delivering more benefits to its customer members.
Chief executive Peter Marks added that economic conditions were also likely to remain challenging, amid further increases in unemployment and no immediate signs of a recovery in consumer spending.
He added: "In spite of our recent success it would be naive to think that we are immune to the recession.
"That said we are pleased with our half-year performance, the second half has started well and we look ahead to the future with renewed confidence."
The group said it had experienced a period of "extensive expansion and acquisition" after the deals to acquire Somerfield for £1.6 billion in February and to merge its financial services arm with Britannia in August.
The addition of Somerfield meant Co-op’s food division racked up sales of £3.9 billion and trading profits of £165.5 million in the six months to July 25. Stripping out the acquisition, the Co-op said its food like-for-like sales exceeded the rest of the market with growth of 7.3%
The tie-up created a chain with around 3,000 outlets, but the Co-op has since raised £650 million from the sale of 200 outlets to meet competition concerns or those stores which did not meet its trading format. It has converted 29 stores to its brand so far, with 200 due to be changed in the year since acquisition.