Belfast Telegraph

Kerry Group boss still 'happy' with Brexit plan despite share price fall

By Colm Kelpie and Ellie Donnelly

The chief executive at Kerry Group - the food giant which owns brands including Coleraine Cheddar - has said he's focused on the "long game" after the group's share price tumbled 5%.

The fall came despite revenue at the group soaring to €6.4bn (£5.6bn) in 2017 as the company benefited from a 4.3% growth in its business volume.

Trading profit at the business was €781m (£688bn), a 4.2% increase year-on-year.

Kerry Group owns six 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.

Chief executive Edmond Scanlon said the company was "happy" about its current preparations in the event of a hard Brexit, but he warned that elements of the operation at its Carrickmacross plant in Co Monaghan will have to be looked at.

Kerry Group's products go directly into the UK market.

"That plant is an important plant in the overall network," Mr Scanlon said.

"It is important the plant is as efficient as it possibly can be as it's going into the UK market.

"If there are trade barriers and all that stuff, we're going to have to re-look at it. It's just a reality.

"Right now, it's important that we try and make that plant as efficient as we can."

In its preliminary statement of results for the year to December 31, 2017, the group said the growth in business volume reflected its technology capabilities and speed of innovation in response to consumer and customer requirements.

"Kerry Group delivered strong top line growth and sustained business development in 2017," Mr Scanlon said.

"Adjusted earnings per share increased by 5.5% reflecting 9.4% growth over the prior year on a constant currency basis.

"In 2018 we expect to deliver adjusted earnings per share growth of 6% to 10% on a constant currency basis."

The company's taste and nutrition business saw its volume growth increase by almost 5% year-on-year to €5.2bn (£4.6bn), while its consumer foods business recorded revenue of €1.3bn (£1.15bn), a 2.4% increase in volume growth on its 2016 performance.

During the year the group completed eight acquisitions at a cost of €397m (£350m).

The acquisition of Hangman Flavours in China was completed shortly after year end.

On the matter of Brexit, the group said it was "very well positioned" to deal with the potential challenges and realise the opportunities that will arise from it.

"We don't know what the timing of these negotiations are going to be and how long it's going to take," Mr Scanlon added.

"We feel okay about where we are. We'd prefer if it didn't happen. Assuming it will, I think we're happy with where we are from a preparation standpoint."

Belfast Telegraph

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