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Food giant setting standard for rest of ISEQ index

IT WAS business as usual for Kerry Group yesterday as the food behemoth produced another set of strong results.

According to Bloxham Stockbrokers, a €100,000 investment in Kerry in 1990 would now be worth €1.1m, and the latest annual numbers demonstrate why that has been possible.

The 5.5pc increase in revenue to €5bn was the biggest increase since at least 2007, while adjusted earnings per share of 194.5c were more than 25pc higher than only two years ago.

Kerry is still regarded here as primarily an agri-foods business but it has moved well beyond that.

The consumer foods business increased like-for-like revenue by 1.3pc to nearly €1.8bn but the ingredients and flavours arm of the company had revenue totalling €3.7bn.

Perhaps the only storm cloud on the horizon is higher input costs -- cereals have hit record highs in the last six months while dairy and energy prices have gone up as well.

In announcing the figures, chief executive Stan McCarthy admitted to concerns about inflation, particularly in emerging markets. And yet margins were still increased across the business.

Bloxham Stockbrokers' Joe Gill reflected the sentiment of most analysts.

"These numbers, existing prospects and valuations suggest further capital appreciation is plausible," he said.

"Free cashflow of €307m was produced despite funding higher levels of capital expenditure, R&D and some asset write-offs, while a bond issue since year end has extended the maturity profile of borrowings," he said.

Yesterday Mr McCarthy did not rule out a major acquisition this year but Kerry now appears to be a company that does not make big splashes, instead preferring to add smaller bolt-on purchases (totalling €161m last year) and growing relentlessly.

With a 15pc jump in the value of the stock in 2010 and a 5.13pc increase already this year, Kerry has become the standard for the rest of the ISEQ index.

Irish Independent