Greggs sales top £1.1bn but storms, virus cloud outlook

Newcastle-based bakery and “food-on-the-go” retail giant Greggs said on Tuesday its sales grew 13.5% to £1.167 billion in 2019 — but that February’s storms in the UK and the potential threat of the coronavirus have caused uncertainty for its outlook in 2020.

Greggs said it had a very strong start to 2020 in January, but suffered a “significant slowdown” in February due to the storms.

2019 underlying pre-tax profit excluding exceptional items rose 27.2% to £114.2 million. Including exceptional items, pre-tax profit grew to £108.3 million.

Total dividend per share rose 25.8% to 44.9p and Greggs said it will “consider capacity for special dividend at time of interim results.”

Greggs shares rose about 6% to around £22.06 to give the Newcastle firm a current stock market value of around £2.1 billion.

Greggs CEO Roger Whiteside said: “2019 was an exceptional year of progress for Greggs, during which we experienced a sustained increase in customer visits as increased awareness and appreciation of our brand gathered momentum. 

“Our exceptional performance was founded on the changes that we have made across our multi-year strategic investment programme, which has delivered transformational change across the business and has now set us up for the next phase of growth.

“We made a very strong start to 2020 in January, but in February saw a significant slowdown in sales growth as a result of the storms that have affected the UK. 

“There is some uncertainty in the outlook, particularly given the potential impact of Coronavirus. 

“This aside we expect to make year-on-year progress and will do so from a strong financial position, supporting our investment for further growth whilst also delivering good returns for all stakeholders.”