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Britain's Mitie offers workers winter support package

By Pushkala Aripaka

(Reuters) -Britain's Mitie offered its lower-paid workers a support package it said totalled 10 million pounds ($12 million) on Thursday as the outsourcing firm forecast better-than-expected profit.

Surging prices of everything from energy to food have increased pressure on Britons trying to make ends meet and businesses looking to rein-in costs.

With inflation hitting a 41-year high last month and the government looking to cut costs, tough times ahead are widely expected for Britain and its economy.

As workers across a variety of sectors strike for better pay, several companies are taking action, with Mitie becoming one of the latest in Europe to offer support to employees.

Mitie Chief Executive Phil Bentley told Reuters the "winter support package" includes one-off bonuses, retail discounts and options to borrow money against future pay, covering about 60% of employees for the second half of the year.

Mitie provides engineering, security and cleaning services, and counts several British government departments, drugmaker GSK and coffee chain Starbucks among its clients.

The majority of Mitie's around 68,000 workers are in Britain and for those in other countries Bentley said the company will implement a "tax-effective" shadow scheme, matching the value of benefits.

The initiative would cost Mitie about 5 million pounds in the second half of the year.

Mitie forecast operating profit before other items of at least 145 million pounds for the year ending March 2023, above analysts' consensus of 139 million pounds, sending its shares nearly 10% higher, despite a first-half profit fall.

As COVID-19 cases ebbed and restrictions ended, Mitie lost the boost it got from high-margin, coronavirus-related contracts during the pandemic, but it expects to benefit from other projects and seasonal work in the second half.

"We have replaced all of that short-term revenue with underlying, longer-term business revenue, which is a real positive for us. If I'm honest, we didn't think we'd be able to replace all that revenue because it was a lot," Bentley said.

Mitie raised its interim dividend by 75% to 0.7 pence per share.

($1 = 0.8404 pounds)

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Subhranshu Sahu and Alexander Smith)