Food giant Unilever sees profits fall to 31m

UNILEVER Bestfoods, which owns the Lyons Tea and HB ice-cream brands, saw its Irish profits fall by 8 million to 31m in 2002.

Accounts filed recently at the Companies’ Office shows that Unilever took a hit on profits after a restructuring programme to streamline its Irish operations.

In November 2002 Unilever announced that it would close its HB ice cream manufacturing plant in Dublin with the loss of 180 jobs.

At the time the Anglo-Dutch company said that the Rathfarnham plant was no longer competitive on the European market and closure was the only option. It closed in mid 2003.

HB ice-cream was one of the best known brands in Ireland and could trace its routes back to 1926 and the Hazlebrook farm in Dublin.

It was bought out by Unilever in the early 1970s.

Even with the fall in pre-tax profits turnover for the year to end December 2002 turnover remained flat at 330m.

The closure of the ice-cream manufacturing plant cost Unilever Bestfoods 14.6m, though operating profits for at the company were up from 28m to just under 50m.

After the jobs cuts the wages and salary bill for its remaining 662 employees fell from 33m to 30.3m. The accounts show that two-thirds of the company’s turnover here is generated from the salary of detergents, including the Persil brands, while the rest comes from food sales.

The company’s six directors were paid a total of 1m during the year, down from 1.5m in 2001.

London-listed Unilever is headed by Irish-born Niall Fitzgerald.

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