Tuesday lunchtime's business bulletin

Co-operative Group hails market-beating performance; Irn Bru maker delivers profits rise despite rain-hit drinks market; Average borrower takes on 12 year debt.

The Co-operative Group hailed a market-beating performance from its food retailing business today after new premium ranges and a store overhaul boosted sales.

The Manchester-based Co-op saw like-for-like food sales growth of 5.2% in the 28 weeks to July 28, helped by new Truly Irresistible and Healthy Living product ranges.

The food business, which accounts for more than 40% of group sales, increased profits 17% to £64.4m, with the group gaining a 15% sales uplift from refitted stores over the period.

Irn Bru maker AG Barr today shrugged off a rain-hit soft drinks market to deliver an 8% profits rise.

Barr said sales of Irn Bru had fizzed 2% higher in the six months to July 28 in a UK market where sales volumes slumped 5% due to the downpours in May, June and July.

Cumbernauld-based Barr, which also makes Tizer and Orangina, posted pre-tax profits of £10.1m with overall like-for-like sales up 2.3%.

Chief executive Roger White said the group was confident of meeting full-year targets despite heavy competition and rising input costs of commodities such as glass and aluminium.

The average borrower taking out a debt management plan has run up unsecured debts that would take them 12 years to clear at affordable levels, figures showed today.

Chiltern Debt Management, which helps people set up informal plans, said the average person coming to it for help had run up debts on credit cards, overdrafts and loans of £26,608 with eight different creditors.

But they earned an average of just £23,535 a year, meaning they owed 113% of their annual income.

The group said debtors could only afford to pay back an average of 26% of their contractual payments to their creditors, meaning that for every £1 they owed in monthly repayments, they could actually afford to pay only 26p.

The pound at noon was US$2.0103 compared to US$2.0217 at the previous close while the euro at noon was £0.7011  compared to £0.6965 at the previous close.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer