UK grocery retailer J Sainsbury has reported a slight rise in interim profit and said its recovery plans are on track with an improving trend in like-for-like sales over the last three quarters.

For the 28 weeks ended 8 October 2005, underlying profit before tax from continuing operations was £118m (US$203.6m), compared to £117m in the same period of last year.

Sales in its supermarkets business were up 5.6% to £8.8bn. Like-for-like sales excluding petrol were up by 2.1%. Customer transactions increased by over half a million to 15 million a week.

"We are pleased with the progress we have made in the first half of the year. While it is still early days in our recovery programme, we are on track and the management team is focused on delivering the plans outlined in October 2004. We have announced an interim dividend of 2.15 pence per share, in line with last year," said chairman Philip Hampton.

"While the customer experience is much improved we still need to work on achieving consistency across all our stores, and at an acceptable cost. Our focus is on maintaining and driving further improvement. We still have a lot of work to do behind the scenes to ensure that we remain on track but the response to our initial progress endorses our belief in the attraction of Sainsbury's brand. There is a real sense that the practical steps we are taking each day are the right ones to Make Sainsbury's Great Again," said Justin King, chief executive.