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SSP, the travel food retailer behind outlets like Upper Crust and Ritazza, was the best-performing large company on European stock markets on Wednesday morning, after reporting a sharp jump in pre-tax profits.

The company topped the Europe-wide Stoxx 600 index in early trading, with a 5.1 per cent increase to 638p per share.

Revenues in the 12 months to September 30 increased 19.5 per cent, helped along by currency moves, while margin improvements meant pre-tax profits jumped even further, up 37.1 per cent to £144.8m.

SSP reported steady like for like sales growth of 3.1 per cent, with further growth coming from new businesses in North America and Asia.

The company increased its total dividend per share for the year by 50 per cent, to 8.1p per share, bringing its payout ratio to the top end of the range promised ahead of its 2014 IPO. On top of that, SSP also said it would pay a special dividend of around £100m.

Shares in the company have now risen 190 per cent since it joined the market, and Liberum analyst Anna Barnfather said a decent start to the new financial year and lower guidance on tax rates “keeps earnings upgrade momentum going”.

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