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Morrison: first-half profit up, shares rise

( - Wm Morrison Supermarkets posted a rise in first-half profit and hiked its dividend on Thursday, and its shares rose as the group said retail like-for-like growth would improve in the second half.

The supermarket chain announced profit before tax and exceptionals that is up over 5% at 198 million pounds in the six months to 4 August.

Total revenue rose 0.4% to 8.8 billion pounds, with sales at outlets open at least a year up 0.2% - excluding fuel and VAT sales tax - a slowdown from the 4.9% reported a year ago.

For the second half, Morrison expects retail like-for-like sales growth to improve, along with additional cost saving opportunities.

It said it remains on track for its medium-term target of 75 million pounds-125 million pounds incremental profit from wholesale, services, interest and online.

Morrison, which is one of Britain's top food manufacturers, also hiked its interim dividend by 4% to 1.93 pence a share. With the special interim dividend of 2 pence, total interim dividend will reach 3.93 pence, it said.

At 9:40 am, Morrison shares were up 3.3% at 200.5 pence. However, the shares have underperformed the STOXX Europe 600 Retail index by about 25% this year.

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