- Africa-focused fuel retailer Vivo Energy has reported gross cash profit increased to $179m in the first quarter of 2020 in a 'strong start' to the year but withdrew its recommendation to pay the 2019 final dividend due to the impact on fuel volumes.

The company said it had seen strong trading in January and February, experiencing over 20% gross cash profit growth.

However, its March performance was affected by Covid-19 related measures reducing demand as full lockdowns were imposed in countries including Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritius and Reunion in the last two weeks of the month.

Volumes rose by 7% during the quarter, as the group said it had benefitted from two months of additional Engen contribution and improved Shell-branded retail performance, before the government restrictions were imposed.

Margins were strong in January and February, but fell in March, primarily due to the impact of the reduction in demand and valuation of stocks.

The company said it has withdrawn its recommendation to pay a 2019 final dividend, given the current impact on fuel volumes and uncertainty as to how long the Covid-19 pandemic will continue.

But it confirmed that the board will consider an additional dividend payment once there is 'more certainty in our markets'.

Chief executive Christian Chammas said: 'Our gross cash profit rose 6% to $179m in Q1 reflecting a strong start to the year before COVID-19 related restrictions on movement imposed in March created significant and ongoing reductions in demand.

'We have responded rapidly to the challenges raised by COVID-19 to protect our people and customers, our communities and our business, and with our robust balance sheet and access to liquidity we have a strong base to navigate through these uncertain times.'

At 9:56am: [LON:VVO] Vivo Energy PLC share price was -0.2p at 78.9p

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