May 10, 2017 / 6:45 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Compass proposes $1.3 bln special dividend after strong sales growth

(Adds details, CEO comment, background)

May 10 (Reuters) - Compass Group, the world’s biggest catering firm, proposed a 1 billion-pound ($1.3 billion) special dividend and said that revenue growth had accelerated in the first half of the year on strong trading in North America and improving trends in Europe.

The British firm, which serves about 5 billion meals each year, said organic revenue rose 3.6 percent at constant currency to 11.6 billion pounds in the six months ended March 31. It had reported revenue growth in the first quarter of 2.8 percent.

First-half underlying operating profit grew 5.2 percent at constant currency to 894 million pounds, Compass said.

Last month, rivals Sodexo and Edenred reported higher sales, prompting them to maintain financial targets.

Compass said on Wednesday its expectations for the full year to September were unchanged and “positive”, with growth expected to more skewed towards the second half of the year.

“Our pipeline of new contracts is encouraging and our focus on organic growth, efficiencies and cash gives us confidence in achieving another year of delivery,” Chief Executive Richard Cousins said in a statement.

The company also proposed an interim dividend of 11.2 pence, up 5.7 percent from an year ago. ($1 = 0.7717 pounds) (Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bengaluru. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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