East Anglia: Food group 2 Sisters reports fall in profits

Ranjit Singh, chief executive of 2 Sisters Food Group

Ranjit Singh, chief executive of 2 Sisters Food Group - Credit: Archant

Food group 2 Sisters said today that it was still feeling the effects of the horsemeat scandal as it reported a fall in quarterly profits.

The Birmingham-based company, one of the UK’s biggest food producers, saw underlying operating profits fall £11.1million to £20.3mn in the 13 weeks to the end of April.

It said sales of ready meals continued to struggle after the scandal erupted in January, even though no traces of horsemeat have been found it its products.

Profits were also eroded by rising costs, the tough consumer climate, the exceptionally cold spring and the acquisition of loss-making operations from Dutch food group VION.

But 2 Sisters, which is also one of the UK’s biggest poultry suppliers, said like-for-like sales increased 4.5% to £624.6 million as it continues to win business with major retailers in its meat arm.

The company, which is owned by entrepreneur Ranjit Singh Boparan includes sites at Eye, Haughley and Flixton in Suffolk, Witham and Basildon in Essex and Thetford in Norfolk, said it expects the market to remain tough as inflation continues to squeeze consumers’ spending power and shoppers shun ready meals.

2 Sisters said the market saw ready meal sales plunge by 20-40% when the horsemeat scandal emerged, after traces of horse flesh were found in frozen beefburgers sold in Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl.

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The company has been on a debt-funded buying spree in recent years, acquiring Yorkshire-based Goodfella’s pizza-maker Northern Foods for £342m in 2011.

In March it also bought the poultry, beef and lamb processing operations of Dutch food group VION after it decided to quit the UK. The deal, for an undisclosed value, has been cleared by the Office of Fair Trading.

2 Sisters acquired a £1billion turnover business with 5,500 staff and factories in Perthshire, Glasgow, Aberdeenshire, Anglesey, Flintshire, Essex, Suffolk and Cornwall.

But the VION business is losing money and together with the ongoing drag from the horsemeat scandal, will continue to erode profits for the rest of its financial year, the company said.

It said: “Despite the tough environment, we believe we are taking the right actions to improve margin by addressing product and customer mix and by implementing our turnaround plan for the VION acquisition.”

Total sales grew to £764.8m in the quarter from £603.1 million a year earlier. The company has annual sales of about £3.3bn and employs around 24,000 staff.

Underlying revenues in its chilled arm increased 2.5% despite falling sales of ready meals.

Its branded division saw like-for-like sales fall 5.5% as consumers switched to own label biscuits and pizza sales struggled.

But its meat division saw underlying sales surge 10.1% as it continues to win business with major retailers.

Net debt was £29.3m lower at £565.4m.