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Sales growth at UK wholesaler Booker Group slowed in its fourth quarter but remained stronger than last year, as it prepares for a £3.7bn takeover by Tesco.

In a fourth-quarter trading update today, Booker said non-tobacco sales in the 12 weeks to March 24 increased by 4.5 per cent. However, restrictions on the packaging and display of tobacco dragged on total sales, which were only 0.5 per cent higher than the same period last year.

However, stronger growth in the first half meant the company still recorded total sales growth of 6.7 per cent in the year to March 24, up from 5 per cent last year. Revenues came in at £5.3bn.

On a like for like basis, sales grew 2.8 per cent excluding tobacco.

Earlier this week two of Tesco’s largest shareholders expressed their opposition to the deal, arguing that Tesco is paying too much for the group after its share price more than doubled in the last four years. Schroders and Artisan Partners said the deal is likely to create distractions at a time when Tesco’s turnround efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

Booker chief executive Charles Wilson said he is “excited about the benefits the enlarged group will bring to consumers, our customers, suppliers, colleagues andshareholders”.

He added:

Overall, 2016/17 was a good year. Customer satisfaction was good and sales were the best we have ever achieved. Booker Group remains on track to focus, drive and broaden the business.

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