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Coleraine Cheddar owner Kerry Group posts £750m profit

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Progress: Edmond Scanlon

Progress: Edmond Scanlon

Progress: Edmond Scanlon

Coleraine Cheddar maker Kerry Group has reported a 12% jump in trading profit of €903m (£750m) for 2019.

Revenue increased 9.6% to €7.2bn (£6bn) during the year, according to annual results from the company.

Kerry Group owns four facilities in Northern Ireland, including Dairy Produce Packers, makers of the popular Coleraine cheese brand; Henry Denny & Sons in Portadown, and Golden Cow in Craigavon.

The performance was driven by growth in Kerry's taste and nutrition division, which reported volume growth of 4% over the 12 months, despite what the company said was "the backdrop of softer market volumes in some developed markets".

This arm of the business accounted for €6bn (£5bn) in income.

Meanwhile, in the consumer foods arm, which was responsible for €1.3bn (£1bn) in revenue, there was a 2% fall in volume growth on the back of contract exits. Edmond Scanlon, chief executive of Kerry Group, said: "We are pleased with the business performance and the strategic development of the group in 2019.

"We also enhanced our trading profit margin and achieved growth in adjusted earnings per share of 8.3% in constant currency.

"Significant progress was made right across our strategic growth priorities of taste, nutrition, foodservice and developing markets."

During the year the group completed 11 acquisitions at a total consideration of €561.7m (£467m). In December last year Kerry lost out in a $26.2bn ($20bn) race for DuPont's nutrition division, a deal that would have transformed the Irish company and potentially triggered a sell-off of some of its Irish food businesses.

Jason Molins, an analyst at stockbroker Goodbody, said the results were "robust".

He said that growth of 2.8% in overall group volumes reflected strong growth across all geographies in the taste and nutrition business.

But that was partly offset by a decline in the consumer foods business after the loss of a Tesco ready meals contract.

He added: "In terms of outlook, Kerry is guiding to financial year 2020 constant currency earnings per share growth of 5 to 9%, which includes the likely quarter-one impact of the coronavirus.

"This compares to our forecast of circa 9%, and while the impact of the coronavirus remains uncertain (note: China represents circa 5% of taste and nutrition), we are likely to adjust our forecast modestly (circa 1%) to reflect the China backdrop."

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