Results for the half year to 5th August show Morrisons sales soaring, with like-for-like sales up by 4.9% and total revenue up by £8.8bn including a contribution of 0.3% from net new space.

Debt is down from a peak of £2.8bn to £929m and cumulative free cash flow is £2.9bn since the start of its improvement programmes.

The retailer said it had extended its ‘Fresh Look’ programme to more than half its 500 stores, with significant improvements in product range and customer service, and developed its offers for online, wholesale, local and in-store services.

Sales have now risen for the past 11 consecutive quarters.

Andrew Higginson, chairman, said: “With each passing quarter, the Morrisons team is building a better and better business. New customers try Morrisons and tell us they really enjoy shopping with us: our friendly colleagues, the quality of our fresh food and our low prices.

“We look forward to more and more customers trying Morrisons.”

David Potts, chief executive, said: “Strong growth, including our best quarterly like-for-like sales for nearly a decade, together with another special dividend for our shareholders, shows how new Morrisons can keep improving for all stakeholders.

“Morrisons continues to become broader, stronger and a more popular and accessible brand, and I am confident that our exceptional team of food makers and shopkeepers can keep driving the turnaround at pace.”

Morrisons now expects to achieve its target of £700m in total of annualised wholesale supply sales, which is ahead of its initial end-2018 guidance.

Its plan for £1bn of annualised wholesale supply sales in due course is still reported to remain unchanged.

Morrisons now expects 2018/19 underlying net finance costs to be £60m–£65m.