British catering firm Compass said Wednesday that it would return £500 million ($815 million, 600 million euros) cash to shareholders, despite news of falling annual net earnings. Profits after taxation sank by almost a third to £429 million ($698 million, 514 million euros) in the 12 months to September, compared with £605 million in the previous 2011/2012 financial year, Compass said in a results statement. However, the world's biggest caterer by sales added that it would return £500 million to shareholders on the back of improving margins and revenues. Revenues grew 3.9 percent to £17.6 billion, aided by the company's US and emerging markets divisions. Pretax profit meanwhile fell 8.6 percent to £721 million. However, on an underlying basis stripping out impairments and other costs, pretax profit rallied 9.2 percent to £1.19 billion. Compass also hiked its full-year dividend to 24 pence from 21.3 pence last time around. The news sent the group's share price 3.62 percent higher to 960.075 pence on London's FTSE 100 index, which rose 0.19 percent to 6,636.22 points in late morning deals. "I'm delighted to report another successful year for Compass, with good levels of growth in organic revenue, margin and cash flow," said chairman Roy Gardner in the earnings release. Chief executive Richard Cousins added: "Economic conditions in Europe and Japan remain challenging, but the actions we've taken have enabled us to manage these and improve profit and margins."