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Sainsbury’s underlying profit before tax was down 39% to £356 million for the 52 weeks ended 6th March 2021, the group has reported in its preliminary results.

The benefits from strong sales growth (excluding fuel) were more than offset by £485 million of direct COVID-19 costs.

A statutory loss before tax of £261 million predominantly reflects one-off costs and impairments associated with strategic changes announced in November, the company said in a statement.

Grocery sales were up 7.8%, general merchandise sales up 8.3% and digital sales up 102%, offset on a statutory basis by materially reduced fuel sales.

Simon Roberts, Chief Executive of J Sainsbury plc, said: “This year’s financial results have been heavily influenced by the pandemic. Food and Argos sales are significantly higher, but the cost of keeping colleagues and customers safe during the pandemic has been high. Our full-year direct COVID-19 costs were £485 million, leading to a 39 per cent decrease in full-year underlying profit. We are pleased to propose a full-year dividend which is in line with last year, protecting shareholder income from the full impact of COVID-19 on profits.

“We have a bold three-year plan to put food back at the heart of Sainsbury’s and drive improved performance. We are transforming the way we work and I am encouraged by how all of our teams have responded and the early momentum and performance towards our plan.”

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