Compass cooks up £500m share buy-back scheme

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The Independent Online

Compass, the world's biggest caterer, is to return £500m to shareholders after strong growth in North America and emerging markets helped it cook up a 5 per cent rise in annual profits.

The uplift was driven by sales growth and cost efficiencies at Compass, which provides meals across industry, healthcare, education and sporting events in 50 countries. Richard Cousins, the chief executive of Compass, said: "We had good growth, driven by our geographical expansion into emerging markets."

Compass, which delivers catering for sporting events such as the tennis at Wimbledon, posted pre-tax profits up 5 per cent to £958m for the year to 30 September. Total revenues jumped by 9.4 per cent to £15.8bn.

Mr Cousins cited strong performances in countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey for driving a 8.3 per cent jump in operating profits to £234m at its "rest of the world" division. But the Japanese earthquake dragged down the division's margins.

Mr Cousins said the North American outsourcing market, where it delivered profits up 12.6 per cent to £538m, was "more dynamic" than in the UK and Europe. Bolstered by a cash flow of £693m, Compass is to buy back £500m of shares during the next year.

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