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Marks & Spencer sales have fallen for the six months to 26 September but the company plans to concentrate on increasing food sales.

Over that period, UK like-for-like sales fell by 0.4% and the sales of general merchandise were down by 1.2%. This includes the clothing section of the company.

However, Marks & Spencer said that underlying profits rose by 6.1%, showing a total of £284 million. Once the one-off items were taken into account, pre-tax profits fell 22.7% to £216 million.

The retailer said that trading conditions were difficult because of the high levels of promotions in the first quarter due to unseasonal conditions.

M&S could be at a turning point if they concentrate on increasing food sales, gross margins and cash generation as planned. The chief executive Marc Bolland said he has focused on making sure that margins are improved and sold fewer items on promotion.

International sales were also affected because sales fell 0.9%, which excludes currency movements.

There is a lot more competition on the high street, especially with Christmas just around the corner but the good news is hat M&S profit margins at its non-food business had risen by 2.85 percentage points.

 

Whitbread’s half-year pre-tax profits were boosted to £254.9 million by Costa coffee and Premier Inn sales, which is up 5.4% during the same period a year ago.

Costa coffee sales made an underlying operating profit of £67 million and sales at Premier Inn rose by 12.6% but the total sales rose 11% to £1.44 billion. 84% of bookings at Premier Inn are now done online and it will continue to grow with investment.

Costa coffee is also on the rise as it opened 68 new stores in the UK during this half-year period and the target is to have around 2,500 shops in Britain by 2020.

With the new National Living Wage coming into effect in April 2016, Whitbread expects it to cost about £15 million to £20 million each year.

Whitbread has continued to grow in the past few years because of the demand for affordable hotels and takeaway coffee but growth was not as good in its restaurant brands, such as Brewers Fayre and Beefeater, because like-for-like sales were only 0.1% higher.

Andy Harrison has been in charge for five years and these results are the final set before Alison Brittain takes over in December.

Ryanair has reported an increase in full-year profits, which is a larger number than analysts’ expected. Net profit for the year to the end of March rose by 66% to €867m (£614m; $948m). One factor of this was the falling oil prices, which reduced operating costs.

Passenger traffic was up 11% to 90.6 million customers and total revenue increased 12% to more than €5.6bn. Ryanair said that because they are facing a rise in demand, they had ordered 183 Boeing 737-800 planes to be delivered from 2014-18 as well as 200 Boeing 737 Max 200s from 2019-2023.

The Irish airline said that the new engines would be 18% more efficient as well as the aircraft being cheaper to finance and operate. It also stated that the amount of extra passengers they receive is largely driven by its new Business Plus and Family Extra services.

In the past, Ryanair has tried to take over another rival firm, Aer Lingus, but did not have any success. Ryanair owns 29.8% of the airline but the firm is now also a takeover target for International Airlines Group (IAG) and so Ryanair may not have much say in the possibility of a takeover. IAG owns British Airways and Iberia.

The Irish government owns 25% of Aer Lingus and in February said that it could not approve an offer of £1 billion from IAG for the carrier. This is because it wanted more clarity on guaranteeing jobs and extra information on IAG’s transatlantic plans. Despite this, Aer Lingus has welcomed the offer that IAG has provided.

Marks and Spencer has reported its first rise in yearly profits for four years.

Underlying profit before tax rose by 6.1% to £661.2 million for the year to 28th March, which is a better result than analysts’ forecast. Its food business had a good year, but sales of general merchandise, which includes marks and spencerclothing, were below expectations, the retail giant said.

Despite this, sales of women’s wear rose in the final quarter. Like-for-like sales of general merchandise fell 3.1% over the year and Marks and Spencer said that it had suffered from the mild weather last autumn, which had hit sales of knitwear and coats. Last autumn was the third warmest on record and that combined with online problems over Christmas has weighed heavily on sales over the year.

In the January to March period, sales had returned to growth and food sales rose 0.6% over the year on a like-for-like basis. Despite intense competition, the retailer said it had outperformed the market.

Marks and Spencer also said that it was raising its dividend by 5.9% and announced a £150 million share buyback programme. Analysts welcomed the news.

The chief executive Marc Bolland said that the improved results came despite the most difficult retail market in 15 years and also stated that the company was confident in the strength of its clothing range.