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The Co-operative Group’s interim chief executive Richard Pennycook, who was given responsibility for the firm’s IT earlier this year, has been handed the top job on a permanent basis.

The Co-operative Group’s interim chief executive Richard Pennycook, who was given responsibility for the firm’s IT earlier this year, has been handed the top job on a permanent basis.

Pennycook joined the Co-op in June 2013 as finance director, before taking over as interim group CEO in March this year. He was also given the newly-created role of chief operating officer (COO), which put him in charge of the company's IT, finance and procurement.

“I am delighted to have the chance to lead The Co-operative Group through the crucial job of rebuilding the business,” Pennycook said in a statement.

“We have taken major steps forward over the last six months, securing governance reform and repairing our balance sheet, but we have much to do to return the group to full financial health and improve the performance of our businesses.”

The Co-op did not say if Pennycook would continue in the COO role, nor if a replacement would be appointed.

Pennycook’s appointment was announced as the company published its interim results for the 26 weeks to 5 July 2014.

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In its results, Co-op revealed plans to invest in its most profitable business - food - which includes launching 100 new stores, refitting more than 300 stores and rolling out contactless payments technology across the entire estate.

It began using contactless technology from Barclaycard in its food stores in 2011.

In addition, the company said it would be investing in more digital services in its Funeralcare business, to try to reverse a fall in profits. The funerals business’s operating profit fell 15.5 percent to £34.6 million in the period, which it said was mainly because of a lower death rate in the UK.

“Building for future growth continues with 14 new funeral homes opened in the first half of the year, planning permission granted to build a new crematorium and significant investment in online services,” Co-op said.

The company said that it is introducing new digital services that will offer online purchase and personalised management of pre-payment funeral plans, as well as online funeral notices, memorials, charitable donations and memorial books.

Co-operative Group announced underlying profits of £66 million for the period, down from £116 million last year.

The company has undergone a number of senior executive changes in recent months. This includes the appointment of Mark Summerfield as managing director of the troubled Co-operative Banking Group, and the bank appointed IT expert Bill Thomas to its board as an independent, non-executive director for his experience in leading major change in large organisations.

In June, the Co-op Group's CIO Andy Haywood announced his departure, having been removed from the board as part of a management reshuffle led by Pennycook.