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Pre-tax profits at the family controlled Musgrave up 3pc

Pre-tax profits at Musgrave, the Cork-based owner of the SuperValu and Centra retail franchises, rose 3pc last year to €72m despite overall group sales declining 3pc to almost €4.4bn. Operating profit fell 3.6pc, however, to €75.6m.

The privately held company, which is controlled by the Musgrave family, released the figures yesterday as part of its annual report. Group chief executive Chris Martin warned that he expects the remainder of the year to be tough as the trading environment remains difficult.

The annual report also revealed that dividends totalling €17.1m were paid last year to the Musgrave family. That's down nearly 10pc from the €19.1m they received in 2009 and lower than the €20.2m they were awarded in 2008.

Musgrave, which also owns the Daybreak franchise as well as Budgens, Londis and Mace in Britain and Northern Ireland, had posted a 7pc decline in profitability for 2009, while revenues that year slipped 3pc to €4.5bn.

The company also has cash-and-carry and retail operations in Spain.

Turnover last year was down just over 10pc compared to the high of nearly €4.9bn reported by Musgrave in 2007.

SuperValu, which has about a 20pc share of the multiple retail trade in Ireland, accounted for €2.4bn, or over half of Musgrave sales last year, while Centra accounted for €1.6bn and Londis €1.3bn. Musgrave also eliminated its outstanding €59m debt, returning to a net cash position of €21m by the end of 2010.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Martin said he was pleased with the 2010 performance in light of the "extremely difficult marketplace".

"The consumer is being hit from all directions. In many respects, I wouldn't have thought a year ago that the recession would have unravelled the way it has."

He said the group has continued to support its franchisees in a variety of financial means, including investment in competitive pricing and margin support. Mr Martin added that while the fourth quarter of 2010 had seen an improved trading performance generally, the market had "stepped back" since. He declined to give any financial forecasts for the current year.

Musgrave also revealed that it charged €16.9m in redundancy and restructuring costs to its books in 2010, while €9.8m of that was utilised during the period.

Last year it closed a Galway depot with the loss of 140 jobs, while it also reorganised its food service operations.

There are 101 SuperValu and 468 Centra stores in the Republic, and 41 Supervalu and 82 Centra outlets in the North.

Musgrave's figures came as the Central Statistics Office said yesterday that retail sales in Ireland fell 1.7pc year-on-year in volume terms during March, while the volume of sales rose 0.1pc month-on-month.

Irish Independent