Travel food concession operator SSP has reported like for like sales up 3.7% for the 12 months to 30 September driven by growth in air passenger travel and retailing initiatives.

Profit before tax was up 14.7% to £82m from £71.5m the previous year and revenue rose to £1.83bn from £1.82bn in 2014.

The company said it is “particularly pleased” with the good progress of its strategic initiatives in the UK as well as the strong performances in North America and Asia Pacific.

Kate Swann, CEO Of SSP Group, said: “SSP has delivered strong results in 2015, with operating profit up over 17% and good like-for‐like sales growth across all regions. We continue to focus on delivering our strategic objectives, driving sales growth in our existing portfolio and winning new contracts which are extending our international operations, whilst remaining committed to operating an efficient business.

“The new financial year has started in line with our expectations and whilst a degree of uncertainty always exists around passenger numbers in the short term, we continue to be well placed to benefit from the structural growth opportunities in our markets.”

Like‐for‐like sales grew by around 3.0% in the first three quarters of the year and by 5.2% in the fourth quarter. The very strong performance in the fourth quarter was as a result of increased air passenger numbers in the UK and Continental Europe over the summer.

In the UK the group increased revenue by 1.4% on a constant currency basis, comprising like-for-like growth of 3.7% and net contract losses of 2.3%. Like‐for‐like growth was strong in the air sector, driven by continued growth in UK airport passenger numbers, with particularly strong passenger growth in the fourth quarter, and the successful on-going roll out of strategic initiatives.

Net contract losses were primarily a consequence of the previously reported loss of a rail on‐board catering contract part way through 2014 and the closures of outlets at some London stations that are being redeveloped. These impacts were partially offset by new openings, such as at Stansted Airport.

Underlying operating profit for the UK increased by 32.2% at constant currency to £52.7m and the operating margin increased by 160 bps to 7.2%. Profit growth was helped by a £5.9m fall in depreciation, mainly arising from the retirement of fixed assets relating to earlier periods. Excluding the impact of lower depreciation, this strong performance was driven by the like-for-like sales growth and the continued roll‐out of our operating efficiency initiatives, of which the UK continues to be a major beneficiary.

SSP said it has started its new financial year in line with expectations and an encouraging pipeline of new contracts.

The company said: “Whilst a degree of uncertainty always exists around global political events and passenger numbers in the short term, the geographical and sectoral diversity in our business, together with the significant structural growth opportunities and our programme to deliver operational improvements, leave us well placed to continue to deliver both to our customers and shareholders.”

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