Slow growth on menu at Compass

Compass Group, the world's biggest caterer, said yesterday that challenging economic conditions in Britain and parts of Europe would lead to slowing organic sales growth in the first half compared with the same period the year before.

The group, which provides meals for office workers, soldiers and schoolchildren, said total revenue is expected to grow by about 8.5 per cent in the six months to the end of March, with growth excluding acquisitions rising by almost 5 per cent. Compass, which serves four billion meals a year in more than 50 countries, said its performance was being driven by good showings in North America and emerging markets.

"As we look out to the second half, while the current economic uncertainty is likely to continue to put pressure on like-for-like volume in some regions, we remain positive about the opportunities to grow the business and we are encouraged by the pipeline of new business," the group said.

Compass, which also provides catering for major sporting events and entertainment venues like London's O2 Arena, said its first-half operating profit margin was expected to be the same as the first half last year.

In January, the French catering-to-vouchers group Sodexo kept its 2011-12 goals for higher revenue and profit despite tough conditions.