September 13, 2018 / 6:42 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-UK's Morrisons beats forecasts on summer weather, World Cup boost

(Adds detail, background)

LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Morrisons, Britain’s fourth biggest grocer, beat forecasts with a 9 percent rise in first half profit, and said it would pay a special dividend, helped by strong growth on the back of warmer than usual summer weather and the soccer World Cup.

The supermarket chain, which will move into the no.3 spot should a deal between bigger rivals Sainsbury’s and Asda go ahead, said sales were also boosted by moves to broaden its business into wholesale, where it has relationships with the McColl’s convenience chain and Amazon .

In its second quarter group like-for-like sales, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, rose 6.3 percent - a nine-year high, having risen 3.6 percent in the first quarter.

Morrisons said its confidence in the future meant it would increase its interim dividend by 11.4 percent to 1.85 pence, and it would also pay a special dividend of 2 pence per share.

“Strong growth, including our best quarterly like-for-like sales for nearly a decade, together with another special dividend for our shareholders, shows how new Morrisons can keep improving for all stakeholders,” CEO David Potts said in a statement on Thursday.

For the six months to Aug. 5 the Bradford, northern England, based firm made an underlying pretax profit of 193 million pounds ($251.4 million) - just ahead of analysts’ average forecast of 192 million pounds and up from 177 million pounds made in the same period last year. ($1 = 0.7677 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Sarah Young)

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