The Co-operative Group has posted a leap in first-half losses due to problems at its troubled banking arm, but emphasised that profits at its food business were “solid”.

The retail-to-banking firm said losses rose to GBP559m (US$866.7m) in the first six months of the year, down from a profit of GBP18m last year. 

The poor performance was driven by a GBP709m loss at the Co-op’s banking arm, where the company was forced to write-down GBP496m in loans. Group chief executive Euan Sutherland emphasised that the firm is working to “stabilise” the bank through its GBP1.5bn Capital Action Plan.

The company saw a stronger performance from its food retail business, where underlying profits slipped to GBP117m from GBP119m in the comparable period of last year. The company has focused on improving its customer appeal by rolling out its new fresh formats, strengthening its private label offering and improving its back-end functions to address issues such as availability.

Group sales fell 1% to GBP5.77bn, down from GBP5.83bn.

Check back later for our interview with retail boss Steve Murrells.