StockMarketWire.com - Supermarket group Morrisons eked a modest rise in underlying annual profit and suspended paying more special dividends while it assessed the full impact of the coronavirus.

Pre-tax profit for the year to 2 February climbed 44% to £435m, up from £303m on-year, and included one-off gains from property sales.

Revenue fell 1% to £17.5bn, with like-for-like sales excluding fuel and VAT fell 0.8%.

Underlying profit rose 3% to £408m.

Morrisons declared a full-year ordinary dividend of 6.77p and total dividends including special payouts of 8.77p.

However, that was down from the 12.60p of total dividends paid on-year.

Morrisons said a decision on further special dividends had been deferred 'maximising flexibility around how we prioritise uses of our strong cash flow'.

The retail unit's contribution to like-for-like sales improved to flat for the first four weeks of the new financial year, and 5.0% for the first six weeks, after considerable stocking up due to the coronavirus.

'During the last two weeks, there has been considerable stocking up and sales pull-forward as customers plan for the impact of COVID-19,' the company said.

'With sales on an improving trend, profit growing for a fourth consecutive year, and free cash flow continuing to be strong, we had anticipated announcing another special dividend today.'

'Instead, during the usual process of reviewing capital allocation, we determined it would be prudent to defer the decision given current unprecedented events around COVID-19.'

'This gives us maximum future flexibility around how we prioritise uses of our strong cash flow, and we will keep our capital allocation options under review.'

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com