Symbol group Musgrave has reported profits up 3% in its full year results, but sales down slightly.

For the year to December 31, pre-tax profit was E72m, while sales were down 3% to E4.4bn. It has eliminated its start of year debt of E59m to close the year with net cash of E21m.

Chris Martin, group chief executive, said: “Despite the economic crisis in Ireland and a very tough trading environment in all our markets, we delivered a good set of results in 2010.

“We have responded to the unprecedented challenges by completing the first year of our transformation programme which is about delivering value for the consumer and our partners, simplifying our business and reducing our costs.

“In 2010, through improved ways of working with retailers and suppliers, we delivered lower prices and an enhanced product offer for shoppers. I am confident that this transformation programme is strengthening the business and providing a platform for the long term.”

In Britain, more than 200 retailers joined its Londis brand, taking its total number of stores to 1,784 at year end. It opened a new store under the Budgens brand every month.

In Northern Ireland, Mace was re-launched with more than 50 rebranded stores and 20 new openings.

In Spain it divested eight stores to independent retailers and at the end of 2010 has 26 stores in Musgrave ownership.

Martin said: “Having seen some recovery in Quarter 4 of 2010, the economies of each of the countries in which we operate have tightened since the start of 2011.   Consumers are now facing into the next phase of the recession with rising fuel prices, higher taxes and uncertain employment prospects.

“We are anticipating that the rest of this year will be tough for the grocery market and the trading environment will remain difficult.  However, we are confident that our brands are adapting well to the budget-conscious consumer, that ourretail partners who own their stores are bringing a different and better offer to their local communities and that our brands continue to attract new retailers.”