LONDON, Sept 15 Morrisons, Britain's No.
4 supermarket, reported a rise in first-half profit for the
first time in four years and a third straight quarter of
underlying sales growth, indicating its recovery is gaining
The Bradford, northern England, based group, which trails
market leader Tesco, Sainsbury's and
Wal-Mart's Asda in annual sales, said on Thursday it
made an underlying pretax profit before restructuring costs of
157 million pounds ($208 million)in the 26 weeks to July 31.
That was 11 percent up from last year's 141 million pounds
and ahead of analysts' average forecast of 150 million pounds.
Sales at stores open over a year, excluding fuel, were up
2.0 over the second quarter, having increased 0.7 percent in the
Net debt reduced by 477 million pounds to 1.27 billion
pounds - below the firm's year-end target, while the interim
dividend was raised 5.3 percent to 1.58 pence.
Morrisons also raised its targets for cost savings, free
cash flow and working capital improvement.
($1 = 0.7553 pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)