British supermarket group Sainsbury(J) (LON:SBRY) last year served an average of 19m customers each week at its checkouts – 1m more than the previous year and enough to drive up both revenues and profits across the group. Shares in Sainsbury’s rose by around 3% to 337.4p during the morning after it revealed that full year sales including vat and fuel were up by 5.1% to £21.4bn with like-for-like sales up 4.3%. Underlying pre-tax profits were up by 17.5% to £610m.

The performance was enough for chairman David Tyler to announce a 7.6% rise in the full year dividend to 14.2 pence while 127,000 staff across the group will share a bonus of £80m. Sainsbury’s was buoyed during the year by a £2.3bn increase in the value of its property portfolio to 9.8bn. Its non-food divisions grew at three times the rate of its food operation, with pre-tax operating profits at its banking arm coming in at £19m.

Justin King, the company’s chief executive, said: “Sainsbury's is a growing business with a strong balance sheet, valuable property assets and an improving return on capital. Our strong operating cash flows support our plans to accelerate the investment programme, delivering further trading and property value for shareholders. Whilst we expect that the environment will remain challenging and consumer spending will be under pressure, we believe our strong space growth plans, supporting our expanding food, complementary non-food and convenience store businesses, alongside our continued focus on productivity, will enable the business to make further good progress.”

Separately, the company today announced a plan to tackle its pension deficit including the creation of a property partnership with its Pension Scheme Trustees. In March 2009, Sainsbury’s actuarial deficit stood at £1.23bn, rising from £443m in 2006 in parallel with falling asset values. The company is now set to increase its deficit payments by £11m to £49m for ten years as well as make annual payments from the property partnership of up to £35m for 20 years.

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