British retailer WH Smith has posted a better-than-expected half-year profit, helped by improved passenger numbers at airports and train stations.
The London-listed company, with stores in travel hubs across the world, reported a headline group profit before tax of £45 million (€51 million) for the six months ended 28 February, compared with £14 million (€15.9 million) a year earlier.
Analysts on average had expected a headline pretax profit of £42.6 million (€48.3 million) for the half year, according to a company-compiled consensus.
The travel industry has made a strong comeback from pandemic lows as offices reopened and more people undertook leisure trips after months of restrictions, although rail strikes in the UK have caused some disruptions in the sector.
WH Smith said in a statement it had made a strong start to its second half and was trading ahead of its full-year expectations.
In North America, the company opened 29 new stores in the first half, and plans to open a further 28 this year, including 11 in Canada across Calgary and Edmonton airports.
The company expects the division to generate profit of more than £50 million (€56.7 million).
The Travel UK division registered revenue growth of 19% compared to 2019, despite lower passenger numbers compared to the same year.
Performance in the division was boosted by category expansion, focus on average transaction value, the success of InMotion, and the travel essentials one-stop-shop format.
Carl Cowling, group chief executive of WH Smith, commented, "We have seen a strong performance in the first half of the year further strengthening our confidence in the prospects of our global travel business.
"We expect travel to represent over 70% of Group revenue and around 85% of Group profit from trading operations by the end of this financial year."
News by Reuters, additional reporting by ESM – your source for the latest retail news. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.