Further fall in Iceland sales chill Big Food

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The Independent Online

Big Food Group yesterday warned that sales at its frozen food chain Iceland had continued to fall in the face of tough competition from Tesco and Asda.

Group like-for-like sales in the six weeks to 14 May were down 0.8 per cent compared with a year ago, while sales at Iceland were down 1.9 per cent.

However, Bill Grimsey, the chief executive, said sales had improved at Iceland's refitted stores. Big Food, which also owns the Booker cash-and-carry business, last month pledged to speed up the revamping of its Iceland stores into neighbourhood convenience stores.

Mr Grimsey said Big Food was still interested in the grocery supplier Londis but would study a £60m offer for the company from the Irish wholesaler Musgrave before making a decision on whether to bid.

"We've always been interested. The Musgrave offer was published last night ... so we'll have a look at it ... and if it changes our view then we'll take it from there," Mr Grimsey said yesterday.

Londis's board has backed the bid from Musgrave, Ireland's largest food and grocery wholesaler, but it needs the approval of 75 per cent of the votes cast at a shareholders meeting on 22 June.

Big Food said it expected profits for the first half of the year to be about the same level as last year when it booked a pre-tax profit of £15.9m. The group reported profit before tax, goodwill and exceptional items of £50.1m for the 53 weeks to 2 April.

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