UK-based catering firm Compass Group has reported higher full-year profits, despite what the company described as difficult economic conditions in many countries in which it operates.


Compass posted operating profit of £781m (US$1.3bn) for the year to 30 September, up 11% compared to the previous year.


Turnover increased to £11.4bn from £10.6bn a year earlier, while profit before tax rose 12% to £654m. Earnings per share increased 13% to 20.6 pence, up 15% on an underlying constant currency basis.


“These results represent an excellent performance in a difficult year.  We have delivered on our targets for 2003 with 6% like for like turnover growth, a 30 basis points improvement in like for like margin and free cash flow up by 20%,” Michael J Bailey, chief executive, said.


“I look forward with confidence to 2004 as the group continues to focus on organic growth and delivering at least 6% like for like turnover growth, a further 20-30 basis points improvement in like for like margin, strong free cash flow and improving return on capital employed,” Bailey added.