UK grocery retailer Somerfield has posted higher full-year profits and said it has appointed a new chief executive.

The company, which operates stores under the Kwik Save and Somerfield banners, reported operating profit before exceptional items of £45.5m (US$82.4m) for the year to 24 April 2004, compared to £30.1m in the previous year. Profit before tax and exceptional items rose to £41.1m from £25.8m a year earlier.

Like-for-like sales at Somerfield stores rose 2.0%, while those at Kwik Save slid 0.1%. Group like-for-like sales were up 1.1%. In the first nine weeks of the new year the company said like-for-like sales growth was 2.9% for Somerfield stores, 2.4% for Kwik Save, while group like-for-like sales rose 2.7%.

"In today's competitive marketplace, we have now proved that the investment we are making in modernising our stores attracts new customers and delivers substantial and sustainable sales growth; our strategy is working," said John von Spreckelsen, the company's executive chairman.

The board of Somerfield also announced that with effect from 1 September 2004, group finance director Steve Back has been appointed group chief executive, allowing Von Spreckelsen to concentrate on his role as chairman.

Steve Back will be succeeded as group finance director by David Cheyne. Cheyne, who joined Somerfield in November 2003 and was appointed to the group executive committee in April 2004, is currently head of the convenience business and managing director of Aberness, which was acquired by Somerfield earlier this year.