prite Holdings, parent company to the Shoprite-Checkers supermarket chain recorded a 35% increase in operating turnover to R269m (US$33.3m) for the six months to December 2002.

This was, however, adversely affected by an unrealised foreign exchange loss of R61m, mainly through the strengthening of the rand.

As a result headline earnings were reduced from 32.6c a share to 26.9c as a result of the unrealised loss. If the unrealised foreign exchange rate fluctuations were excluded, the group would show a 40.3% growth in headline earnings, or 35.5c earnings per share.

A 14c per share dividend was declared, compared with 11c for the year-ago period.

MD Whitey Basson said to remain price-competitive, the group was obliged to purchase stock on a large scale because of the rapid increase in food inflation.

“We nevertheless succeeded in reducing the total real stock during the period under review, considering the high food inflation as well as the 38 new stores opened during the past 12 months, 20 of them during November and December 2002.”

With more than R1bn in cash at hand at the closing date and a strong balance sheet, the group was well positioned for further investments in the retail trade.

The separation of the group’s two main trademarks – Shoprite and Checkers – has been successfully carried out.