March 30, 2017 / 6:26 AM / 8 months ago

Tesco target Booker sees sales growth ease

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - Booker, the British wholesaler that in January agreed to be taken over by Tesco for 3.7 billion pounds ($4.60 billion), said on Thursday sales growth had eased in its fourth quarter, with tobacco sales dented by a display ban and plain packaging restrictions.

The firm, which supplies the Budgens, Londis, Happy Shopper and Premier convenience chains and also operates cash and carry business Makro, said group sales rose 0.5 percent in the 12 weeks to March 24, while like-for-like sales were up 0.7 percent.

That compares to like-for-like sales growth of 3.2 percent in the previous quarter.

Booker also faced tougher year-on-year comparative numbers in the fourth quarter, while Easter also falls later this year.

Prior to the update, analysts’ average forecast was for a pretax profit of 171.3 million pounds ($212.9 million) for the 2016-17 year, up from 150.8 million pounds in 2015-16, according to Reuters data.

Booker said it is currently going through the competition process relating to Tesco’s offer, announced on Jan. 27.

It said it will not be making forward looking statements for the duration of the offer period. ($1 = 0.8044 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey, editing by David Evans)

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