Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Premier Foods considers selling Ambrosia as its CEO steps down

Mr Kipling packaging showing new government food labelling Image Premier Foods' brands include Mr Kipling
Priscilla Morrison | 15 November, 2018, 10:58

"The group shortly intends to start a process of building stocks of raw materials to protect the company against the risk of delays at ports", Premier Foods said.

Premier is now starting the hunt for his successor.

Gavin Darby has led the Mr Kipling cake company since 2013 but was wounded in July when nearly 41 percent of shareholders backed an attempt to oust him led by activist hedge fund Oasis Management.

"Accordingly, we are pursuing options to fund these plans as well as delivering a meaningful reduction in net debt, through discussions with third parties regarding the potential disposal of our Ambrosia brand".

Premier Foods' top shareholders found themselves on opposing sides of the battle to oust Darby with the largest investor - Japan's Nissin Foods Holdings 2897.T - backing him.

Premier Foods boss Gavin Darby will also be stepping down as CEO in January.

Gavin Darby said: "We are pleased to report revenue growth of +1.3% in the first half, a +6.2% increase in trading profit and net debt £26m lower compared to a year ago".

Despite this, the company reported a 1.3% rise in revenues to £358m for the six months to 29 September and a 14.3% increase in adjusted pre-tax profit to £30.2m.

But its bottom line was weighed down by growing finance costs leaving it nursing a half-year loss of £2.2m, up from £1.2m a year ago.

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Darby said it was the right time for him to go and denied that it was connected with the shareholder revolt.

The business is expected to spend up to £10 million to prepare for the United Kingdom crashing out of the EU.

Premier also revealed it plans to stockpile supplies in case the United Kingdom experiences a no-deal Brexit.

The UK food group also owns brands Mr Kipling and OXO.

"Potentially this action will cause an adverse movement of up to £10m in working capital during quarter four, which we would expect to reverse the following financial year as the situation normalises".

Premier revealed that demand for Ambrosia and some of its other products such as Bisto turned cold during the summer heatwave.

The potential sale of Ambrosia is seen as an olive branch, with the division being the group's third biggest brand.

He added: "The board has determined that it should focus resources on areas of the business which have the best potential for growth through accelerated investment in consumer marketing and high return capital projects".

'Although there is no certainty that any transaction may complete, the board will update shareholders in due course, ' the company said.

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