South African grocer SPAR lifts half-year earnings by 3.7%

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JOHANNESBURG, June 8 (Reuters) - South Africa's SPAR Group SPPJ.J reported a 3.7% rise in half-year profit on Wednesday, as its businesses continued to recover from COVID-19 restrictions.

The grocery retailer said diluted headline earnings per share (HEPS), the main profit measure in South Africa, rose to 641.1 cents in the six months ended March 31, from 618.5 cents a year earlier.

Group turnover rose by 5.2% to 67.6 billion rand ($4.38 billion), supported by its home business as it continued to recover from lockdown curbs and a civil unrest that destroyed its stores last year, while operating profit grew 7.1% to 1.8 billion rand.

Increased marketing initiatives and unrestricted liquor trading, which drove increased footfall to SPAR stores, helped lift sales by 4.6% at the group's core wholesale grocery business in Southern Africa. Total wholesale turnover jumped by 7.7%.

In the foreign businesses, while sales grew for some, profits have come under pressure due to increased labour and energy costs, the retailer said.

BWG Foods - the group's Ireland and South West England majority-owned business - delivered turnover growth of 8.3% in euros as sales in foodservices rebounded strongly with the reopening of the hospitality industry.

SPAR Switzerland reported a 1.6% decrease in turnover in Swiss francs as the elimination of pandemic-related restrictions significantly reduced the level of neighbourhood store support, while the Polish business saw sales growth of 6.5%.

SPAR declared an interim dividend of 175 cents per share, down 37.5% from last year.

($1 = 15.4263 rand)

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Shailesh Kuber)

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