Belfast Telegraph

Appetite for change as Greggs enjoys £20m shares bonus

By Roger Baird

Greggs - the wildly popular UK bakery which opens its first operation in Northern Ireland today - has delivered a £20m windfall for shareholders.

The chain's freshly made sandwiches and £2 breakfasts boosted trading, just as the English company gets ready to open up at the new Applegreen Templepatrick motorway services on the M2.

The firm, which runs 1,650 shops, said its like-for-like sales lifted 5.9% in the 16 weeks to April 25, with its upgraded range of healthy options under 400 calories proving popular.

The retailer will return £20m to investors through a 20p a share special dividend after carrying out a capital review of its business. This replaces a proposed £10m share buyback programme the firm had announced at its full-year results in March.

Greggs said the year had started strongly, supported by rising disposable incomes and low inflation costs from suppliers.

It said it now expected its first half performance would be ahead of previous forecasts, and overall predicted good growth for the year. The group plans to refresh its menus by introducing items such as a sugar-free soft drinks range and a summer berry fruit pot.

During the period the group said it opened 24 shops and closed 18, as it continues to move more of its estate away from high streets towards industrial parks and motorway service areas.

It said 17 of the 24 outlets it opened were franchised units in transport locations. Greggs said working with Applegreen allowed it to "assess Northern Ireland's appetite" for its range.

It has now refitted 69 shops in the period and will tackle between 200 and 220 this year as it upgrades its estate.

Shore Capital analyst Darren Shirley said: "Greggs continue to surprise us on the strength of its trading momentum."

The broker upgraded Greggs full-year pre-tax profit forecast by around 3% to £68.7m.

The Applegreen services area also has a full convenience store, car and HGV fuelling pumps, and parking on a site of nearly five acres.

As well as Greggs, there is also a Burger King restaurant and drive through, Subway, Chopstix, Lavazza Cafe, as well as Applegreen's own brand, The Bakewell.

The site also has an outdoor children's play area.

Greggs' first move into Northern Ireland was revealed in the Belfast Telegraph at the beginning of this month.

A spokesman for the company said it was for a temporary period.

"The trial, which is due to start at the end of April and run for a 12-month period, will enable Greggs to assess Northern Ireland's appetite for its 'always fresh. Always tasty' customer offer."

Earlier this year the firm's.

Belfast Telegraph