May 21, 2020 / 7:22 AM / 11 days ago

UPDATE 1-Pets At Home sees weaker H1 as stockpiling demand eases

(Adds shares, details on outlook, background)

May 21 (Reuters) - Pets At Home said on Thursday it expects first-half pretax profit to be sharply lower than last year as the coronavirus-driven jump in demand it saw in the final weeks of the fourth quarter has started to unwind.

The pet supplies retailer’s underlying pretax profit rose 11% to 99.5 million pounds ($121.38 million) for the year ended March 26, as pet owners stocked up on food and basic medicines during a lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Online sales have remained at materially higher levels but that alone cannot temper the reduced level of in-store sales, the company said in a statement. It did not provide annual outlook.

The company’s shares were 5.7% lower at 219.5 pence by 0715 GMT.

The company, whose stores, website and veterinary practices have stayed open throughout the lockdown, said its full-year sales jumped 10.2% to 1.06 billion pounds.

With many people stranded at home, pet adoption has also surged around the world as people try to cope with isolation. Swiss food giant Nestle said last month quarterly sales of its Purina Pet care business rose by a double-digit percentage in North America.

Pets At Home said it would pay a final dividend of 5 pence per share, taking the full-year dividend to 7.5 pence per share, the same as last year.

$1 = 0.8197 pounds Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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