Shares of Bradford-based supermarket giant Morrisons rose about 11% on Wednesday after it published results for the 52 weeks to February 2, 2020, showing profit before tax and exceptionals rose 3% to £408 million on revenue that slipped about 1.1% to £17.5 billion.
Morrisons’ full-year ordinary dividend will be up 2.6% at 6.77p, and full-year total dividend including an interim special dividend of 2p will be 8.77p (2018-19: 12.60p).
The group said a decision on a further special dividend has been deferred “maximising flexibility around how we prioritise uses of our strong cash flow.”
In its outlook, Morrisons said: “Sales have been on an improving trend since the start of 2020, and improved again recently with retail contribution to LFL flat for the first four weeks of 2020/21.
“This is despite the significant deflationary impact of our continued investment in becoming more competitive for customers.
“During the last two weeks, there has been considerable stocking up and sales pull-forward as customers plan for the impact of COVID-19.
“Overall, for the first six weeks of 2020/21, retail contribution to LFL was 5.0%.
“With sales on an improving trend, profit growing for a fourth consecutive year, and free cash flow continuing to be strong, we had anticipated announcing another special dividend today.
“Instead, during the usual process of reviewing capital allocation, we determined it would be prudent to defer the decision given current unprecedented events around COVID-19.
“This gives us maximum future flexibility around how we prioritise uses of our strong cash flow, and we will keep our capital allocation options under review.
“Morrisons is operating from a very robust financial position.
“We have a strong balance sheet, with low debt and a strong maturity profile.
“Cash flows and liquidity are also very strong.
“As at the end of 2019/20, we had cash and cash-equivalents of £305m and access to undrawn revolving credit facilities (RCFs) of £1.45bn.
“Our store portfolio is overwhelmingly freehold (87%), and our pensions are in surplus.”
Morrisons chair Andrew Higginson and CEO David Potts said in a joint statement: “We are currently facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainty dealing with COVID-19.
“Looking after our colleagues and customers is our priority, ensuring that we have a clean, safe place to shop and work.
“At Morrisons, we have a strong, experienced, and above all, determined team of the best food makers and shopkeepers in Britain.
“We promise to work as hard as we can for customers, suppliers, and all stakeholders to keep our shops operating as smoothly as possible.
“Thank you to all our colleagues for your incredible efforts so far.”