Fuel forecourt and service station operator Applegreen has reported a big jump in revenues and profits for the six months to the end of June as it continues to expand in Ireland, the UK and the US.
The company was in the news this week when it was forced to close one of its petrol stations after an online video showed a rat in a food preparation area.
Applegreen said it was carrying out an investigation following a "pest control issue" at Cherry Orchard station in Dublin.
In today's results statement, Applegreen said its group revenue for the six month period jumped by 73% to €1.5 billion, while its group gross profit soared by 145% €268m.
The group said it now has 483 sites in Ireland, the UK and the US compared to 368 sites at the end of June 2018.
During the six month period, the company acquired another 46 sites in the US Mid West, while it added 11 new sites to its portfolio in Ireland and the UK.
Applegreen has announced an interim dividend of 0.66 cent per share, an increase from the dividend of 0.63 cent per share announced for the six months to June 2018.
"The underlying Applegreen business continues to grow at a satisfactory rate and, whilst there is currently no certainty around the timing and impact of Brexit, the resilient nature of our business and our "self help" initiatives should help protect us from potential downsides," the company said.
"We therefore remain confident in the prospects for the business for 2019 and beyond," it added.
The company's chief executive Bob Etchingham said that during the six month period, further initiatives were taken to further develop the business, including recently announced acquisitions in the US.
The CEO said that like for like revenue and profits from the underlying Applegreen estate, excluding Welcome Break, continued to show strong growth, whilst significant progress was made on the integration of the Welcome Break business acquired in the UK in the fourth quarter of last year.
"The delivery of anticipated synergy benefits is firmly on track and we see the opportunity for greater savings than originally expected going forward," he added.
Applegreen said its revenue in its Irish operations in the six month period rose by 14.1%, while its gross profit increased by 11.8%.
It said that total fuel gross profit increased by 16% compared to H1 2018 on the back of favourable market conditions, particularly in May and June, as well as improved like for like volumes.
Applegreen noted that its dealer and fuel card volumes have continued to grow and now account for 35% of Republic of Ireland fuel volumes on a combined basis.
The company expanded its Republic of Ireland portfolio by six sites which included one service area site, one petrol filling station site and four dealer sites.
89% of the Irish estate is branded Applegreen, up from 88% the same time last year and there were a total of 199 sites trading at the end of the period.
Applegreen said its UK results incorporated the Welcome Break business and as a result it saw significant growth in reported revenue which increased by 127.8% while gross profits soared by 470.9%.
It noted that the Welcome Break business is seasonal, with a significant portion of trade in the months of July and August.
Total fuel gross profit in the UK increased by 19.4% on a like for like basis which the company said reflected a very strong performance compared to a weaker 2018 which was impacted by adverse weather events, unfavourable commodity price movements and more intense competitive landscape.
Five new sites were added to Applegreen's UK portfolio period bringing the total number of sites to 163 with 60% trading under the Applegreen or Welcome Break brand.
Meanwhile, revenue in Applegreen's US operations increased by 117.1% and gross profit by 96.8%, mainly due to the full year impact of the acquisitions in Florida and South Carolina last year.
The total number of sites trading at the end of June 2019 was 121 with 29 in the North East and 92 in the South East, the company added.
Applegreen shares were 9.6% higher in Dublin trade today.