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Meat in the sandwiches for Greggs

GREGGS, the bakery business based in Newcastle, has shaken off the effects of the food retailing price war to report strongly increased profits, writes Robert Cole.

Mike Darrington, the managing director, said price competition had squeezed sales of bread and rolls. However, group profits and margins moved ahead thanks to value- added products such as sandwiches and pies. 'We are as much a sandwich bar-cum-takeaway as we are a bread shop,' Mr Darrington said.

'The cake business was satisfactory and we achieved very strong gains in the sandwich market, together with good growth in our savoury business,' he added.

Pre-tax profits for the 53 weeks to 1 January were pounds 9m, 29 per cent up on 1992. The operating profit margin rose from 6.7 to 7.7 per cent.

Mr Darrington said margins were also helped by increased efficiencies - the costs of energy, distribution, raw materials, rent and rates were all reduced.

Greggs now has 500 shops and wants to open 20 more this year. It also has plans to spend pounds 8.5m on new baking facilities. The capital expenditure will be funded out of cash balances, which grew to pounds 12.5m by the year end.

Earnings per share rose to 53p from 40.6p. The dividend is 18p compared with 15p last time. The shares gained sharply, closing 35p higher at 753p.