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Co-Op Says Profit Falls on ‘Worst Conditions in 40 Years’

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Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Co-operative Group Ltd., the U.K.’s largest mutual retailer, said full-year profit will not reach 2010 levels as the economic slowdown bit “deeper than anyone had expected.”

Trading conditions are “the worst I have seen in over 40 years of retailing,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Marks said today in a statement. “Looking ahead, we do not see signs of any real improvement in the economy.”

Co-op is mutually owned by almost six million consumers and is Britain’s fifth-biggest food retailer, according to its website. The company also provides financial services through its banking and insurance units.

“I said six months ago that I felt we’d be bumping along the bottom for some time,” Marks said today on a conference call. “I really don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. The consumer is squeezed like never before.”

Underlying operating profit for the 26 weeks to July 2 dropped 11 percent to 275.1 million pounds ($450.7 million) the Manchester, England-based company said in the statement. Revenue slipped to 6.89 billion pounds from 6.95 billion pounds a year earlier.

The underlying operating profit for Co-op’s food business slumped 21 percent to 135.4 million pounds, reflecting an “increasingly tough market,” the company said in the statement.

U.K. consumer confidence fell to a three-month low in July as Britons grew more pessimistic about the outlook for the economy, Nationwide Building Society said today. Confidence may drop further after the U.K. had its worst rioting since the 1980s and concern about the European debt crisis and a cooling global economic crisis that wiped trillions of dollars off equity markets, the customer-owned lender said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Edwards in London at bedwards35@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at ckeatinge@bloomberg.net

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