Dairy Crest profits on its retained Cheese and Spreads businesses rose by 19% in the year ended 31 March 2015.
The sale of its dairies operations were approved by shareholders and regulatory approval is now in progress. The Cathedral City brand continues to grow strongly, the company says. It is now Britain’s 16th largest grocery brand, accounting for over 50% of total branded retail cheddar sales. The company is on track to start production of demineralised whey powder and galacto-oligosacharide this year for growing global markets.
Commenting on the results, Mark Allen, Chief Executive, Dairy Crest Group plc said:
“This has been another year of significant progress for Dairy Crest. We have grown combined Cheese and Spreads sales despite the deflationary market environment. We have also delivered an encouraging improvement in the combined margin of these businesses. Cathedral City has again outperformed and accounts for over 50% of retail sales of branded cheddar. Our focus on product development has underpinned these results and our investment in a new innovation centre will support this. We have again met our target to deliver annual cost savings of over £20 million. These include consolidating our butter and spreads production onto one site.
We have agreed to sell our Dairies operations. The conditional sale is a positive development for Dairy Crest and the wider UK dairy sector. Shareholders have approved the sale and the process to obtain regulatory approval is on track. Completion of the sale will result in Dairy Crest operating from five well-invested manufacturing sites. It will be a much simpler, more focused, predominantly branded business. It will also have exposure to the growing infant formula category and emerging markets.
Looking ahead, Dairy Crest is well positioned for sustainable, profitable growth. Over the coming year as a whole we expect results to benefit from the continued growth of Cathedral City, ongoing cost savings and the completion of our project at Davidstow where we will add value to our whey stream by producing ingredients for infant formula. This growth will be second half weighted.
We expect that our net debt, which at the year end remains within our target range, will fall once we have completed our major investment projects. The receipt of the proceeds from the sale of our Dairies operations will accelerate this reduction.”
1 From continuing operations
2 Profit on operations before exceptional items and amortisation of acquired intangibles
3 Before exceptional items, amortisation of acquired intangibles and pension interest