Woolworths posts steady profit rise

Woolworths has reported a large rise in profit after selling Dick Smith Electronics and some of its shopping centres.

The company's first-half net profit after tax jumped 19.4 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier, to $1,155 million.

When one-off gains and losses are excluded, the company's underlying after tax earnings rose 5.5 per cent to $1,247 million.

The supermarket and retail giant's profit was driven by $30 billion worth of sales, up 4.8 per cent on the year before.

Woolworths chief executive Grant O'Brien says he is happy with result given the subdued retail environment.

"Despite ongoing challenging retail conditions as well as the transformational path our business is pursuing, growth in profitability in our core businesses was strong," he said.

"Our strategic initiatives, which are providing a platform for the future success of Woolworths, continue to generate enhanced returns for our shareholders whilst improving the shopping experience of our customers." Some of the main strategic initiatives included and shops from Woolworths, the and the continued expansion into hardware through the company's new Masters chain.

The company also profited from a 62-basis-point increase in its gross profit margin achieved through more targeted discounting, "better buying" including increased direct global sourcing, and less shoplifting.

However, Grant O'Brien denies that "better buying" entails bullying suppliers for cheaper prices.

He says the retailer is an ethical business, which wants to see customers benefit from a competitive market.

"Woolworths has been a reputable business for many years, and operated at a very high standard and I think that's well recognised," he said.

"None of that's changed under my watch and won't.

So, a regulator has a job to do and we have a job here to do at Woolies, which is to deliver an offer to consumers that is compelling." Woolworths is delivering shareholders a fully-franked interim dividend of 62 cents a share, up from 59 cents last year.

The retail giant's shares climbed 2 per cent to $34.69 by 10:33am (AEDT) on the result, against a broader market gains of 0.9 per cent.

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