The Co-operative Group has reported underlying operating profits up 20% to £473m, buoyed by its acquisition of Somerfield.

For the 51 weeks to January 2, group sales were up 31% to £13.7bn.

Its food business recorded sales including Somerfield up 66% to £7.5bn and profit up 31% to £286m. Like-for-like sales increased 5% year-on-year.

Group chief executive Peter Marks said: “These are record results in what has been an historic year for The Co-operative Group. Our business has continued to thrive in spite of economic pressure, and I am pleased to report that we are on track with the integration of both Somerfield and Britannia.”

He added: “Our food business continues to go from strength to strength following the acquisition of Somerfield. We now run almost 3,000 community food stores and we have a store in every single postal area in the UK bar one. Each week we serve 21 million customers.”

He said the Somerfield acquisition has changed the business from being focused on the convenience store sector to one which combines small supermarkets. “The challenge now is to become the market leader in that sector, just as we are in the smaller store convenience sector.”

During 2009, 778 stores were rebranded and upgraded – 597 Co-op and 181 Somerfield shops. This means 65% of the total estate has now been rebranded and modernised. Sales from rebranded stores increased by 12% year-on-year.

The Co-op said its Simply Value range has reported an 85% increase in sales year-on year, and another highlight is its Meal Deal campaign, plus Christmas Smart Coupon campaign.

The Co-op’s pharmacy business reported tough trading conditions in 2009, but sales were up slightly from £744m to £745m. Operating profits were down 21% to £29.9m.