Shares of Bradford-based supermarket giant Morrisons rose about 4% on Thursday after it forecast improved sales in the second half of the year and said first-half revenue rose 0.4% to £8.83 billion while profit before tax and exceptionals rose 5.3% to £198 million.
Group like-for-like sales excluding fuel and VAT sales tax fell 1.9% in its second quarter, having increased 2.3% in the first quarter.
For the six months to August 4, group like-for-like (LFL) sales (ex-fuel/ex-VAT) rose 0.2%.
“During the second half, we are planning both for retail LFL to improve, and for various additional cost saving opportunities,” said Morrisons.
Interim ordinary dividend rose 4.3% to 1.93p and Morrisons is proposing a special interim dividend of 2p, taking total interim dividend up 2.1% to 3.93p.
Morrisons CEO David Potts told reporters Morrisons was well prepared for all Brexit scenarios and said recent talk of the firm as a takeover target was “pure speculation.”
Some analysts have speculated Morrisons might be a candidate for a takeover by an overseas private equity firm, given the fall in its share price and the weakness of the pound making such a deal cheaper.
The company also said on Thursday it is extending its partnership in Britain with online giant Amazon by signing a multi-year agreement rather than the current rolling contract.
“We’ve agreed to work together across longer range important opportunities,” said Potts.
Potts added in the firm’s statement: “News today of new wholesale initiatives, including a further extension of our partnership with Amazon, and of another special dividend, again show how new Morrisons continues to become broader and stronger for all stakeholders, and how progress can be meaningful and sustainable even in more testing trading conditions.
“Such progress is only made possible by Morrisons exceptional team of food makers and shopkeepers.”