British food group sees profits drop
TOUGH trading conditions pushed down interim profits at Associated British Foods, whose main UK interests include British Sugar, Allied Mills and ABN animal feeds.
A good sugar beet crop – the fourth highest at 1.4m tonnes – saw British Sugars operating profits rise slightly to £74m.
Allied Bakeries had more mixed fortunes. In January, major retailers reduced the price of an economy loaf to 7p, prompting a 50% increase in demand which hit the premium loaf sector. "Neverthe-less, the Kingsmill brand increased its sales over last year and is now the single largest-selling bread brand in the UK," said executive chairman Garry Weston.
Animal feeds suffered from industry over-capacity and weak demand, but showed significant recovery from the low profit levels in the second half of 1998, he adds.
Overall, ABF increased turnover to £1.985bn, up £22m on the previous period. Operating profits slipped £4m to £146m for the period.
A special dividend of 50p a share was announced, returning £448m to shareholders.