Food group’s ‘resilient’ results impress markets

SPECIALITY food group Aryzta published first-half results on Monday that impressed the markets.

It showed, with the exception of Ireland and Britain, that it was capable of growing turnover, profits and margins in a hostile global market.

Aryzta reported pre-tax profits just shy of €110 million for the six months to the end of January, an increase of 16.6% on the same period a year earlier.

The group represents the merger of IAWS, owners of the Cuisine de France brand, and Swiss bakery group Hiestand.

In the period sales rose to €1.57 billion, an increase of 16%, while adjusted earnings per share rose by almost 17% to 107.7%.

Its core food division’s profits rose 15% to €73m, with sales 6.7% higher.

In Europe, food profits rose 11% to €64m, though revenue was up only slightly, while profits in North America were ahead 26% to €34.3m. Sales there were up over 20% in the period.

The decline in the domestic and British markets, which are going through the most difficult economic times at present, were let downs for the group as was the 9% fall in the contribution of joint ventures and associates to €7.3m, the majority of which is accounted for by Canadian-based group, Tim Hortons.

Some had questioned whether the enlarged group, with its global reach, would or could sustain growth in the current environment.

There were questions too about whether the combined businesses, because they operated in independent markets from each other, could continue to deliver strong growth which has been the hallmark of both in recent years.

In a tough market, the results overall proved “resilient” and shares closed 70 cent higher at €16.95, a 4% increase on the day.

Analysts have highlighted the like-for-like revenue growth in food division of 6.7% and the gain of nearly 1% in the operating margin from 10.6% to 11.5%.

To make that gain in this environment is impressive to say the least, even if most analysts had been expecting a pretty good first-half result.

To some degree the push on margin and the increased sales should not surprise.

IAWS was the best performing food stock internationally for many years.

It has demonstrated ability to grow its businesses and a well-developed strategy that has kept it positioned in growth segments of the diverse market for some time.

The group’s management has always been hands-on and there is no doubt that, while the diverse food markets may not help synergies in terms of sales, the group has been able to extract better prices for its considerable raw material purchases from its range of suppliers.

IAWS had been a minority holder in Hiestand since 2003 when it took a 22% stake. The takeover in mid-2008 gave IAWS management control of a far bigger organisation.

Both own well honed baking technology and a high competence in producing par baked breads, artisan breads, savoury finger foods and a range confectionery, geared to modern living.

Aryzta boss Owen Killian previously said: “We believe Aryzta will be the global leader in value added baked goods”.

Aryzta will have 200,000 customers and a geographical reach creating access to 750 million consumers.

The value-added bakery market is worth €14bn in Europe, €9bn in the US, and about €5bn in Asia/Pacific where the enlarged group sees considerable potential.

On the basis of these results, Aryzta has served notice that it can deliver earnings growth despite tough market conditions.

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