Compass Group, the concessions operator and contract caterer, has reported organic revenue in Europe up 1.6% for the six months to 31 March.

The group said the growth reflected good levels of new business and the benefit of pricing in some countries, partly offset by the negative impact of contract closures seen in the second half of 2016. It said the timing of Easter had an estimated impact of 2.5%.

The group said that after a slowdown in new business in the UK post the Brexit referendum, contracts were now mobilising as expected. Among the new contracts for the group in the UK was Aston Villa Football Club.

Underlying operating profit in Europe grew by 2.3% (£5m) on a constant currency basis.

On a global level, the group reported underlying revenue up 3.6% to £11.6bn.

Richard Cousins, group chief executive, said: “Compass had a good six months, with the business performing as expected. North America continues to deliver excellent growth and trends in Europe are improving. In Rest of World, reasonable growth in Business & Industry, Healthcare and Education was offset by ongoing weakness in Brazil and our Offshore & Remote sector.

“We continue to drive operating efficiencies around the business which, combined with the end of the restructuring in our Offshore and Remote business, resulted in margin improvement of 20bps in the period.

“Given our excellent cash generation and the strength of the business, we are announcing a £1 billion special dividend. This reflects our commitment to return surplus cash to shareholders whilst maintaining an efficient balance sheet.

“Our expectations for FY 2017 are positive and unchanged, with growth weighted to the second half. Our pipeline of new contracts is encouraging and our focus on organic growth, efficiencies and cash gives us confidence in achieving another year of delivery.

“In the longer term, we remain excited about the significant structural growth opportunities globally and the potential for further revenue growth, margin improvement, as well as continued returns to shareholders.”