StockMarketWire.com - Bakery chain Greggs said Thursday it expects to declare a special dividend in July after reporting annual profits in line with guidance as performance improved in the second half following a weather-related lull in the first half.

In 12 months ended 29 December, pre-tax profits excluding exceptional items rose 9.8%, in line previous guidance given in November for full year profit before tax, excluding exceptional charges, of at least £86m.

Total sales grew by 7.2% to £1.03bn for the year and like-for-like sales growth in company-managed shops slowed to 2.9%, from 3.7% a year earlier.

Reported profit before tax rose to £82.6m from £71.9m.

The company also reported a very strong start to the year as company-managed shop like-for-like sales were up by 9.6% in the seven weeks to 16 February 2019.

The company opened 149 new shops in the year, closed 50 during the period.

The bakery chain increased its dividend by 10.5% to 25p per share, giving a total ordinary dividend for the year of 35.7p, up from 32.3p last year.

'The first half (of 2018) was significantly impacted by extreme weather but once this returned to normal our underlying strengths helped us recover the lost ground and deliver results for the year that exceeded our expectations,' said Roger Whiteside OBE, Chief Executive.

'Whilst there are significant uncertainties in the months ahead, Greggs has started 2019 in great form, helped in part by the publicity surrounding the launch of our vegan-friendly sausage roll,' said Roger Whiteside OBE, Chief Executive.

'We hope to continue benefiting from this strong momentum during the first half of 2019 before facing stronger comparatives later in the year.'

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com