Business Irish

Saturday 20 January 2018

Group beats expectations as revenue rises 10.3pc

AT some point it must get boring. Once again, Kerry Group reported annual results that matched or beat expectations.

Revenue and earnings per share rose 10.3pc and 11.3pc respectively, and while the company took an exceptional charge of €120m that ate into the final profit, even that was the good kind of exceptional item.

Unlike other companies that tend to shovel all sorts of writedowns and write-offs into the exceptionals column, Kerry's charge was due to the integration of its many acquisitions into the group.

The one cloud on the horizon remains the continuing weakness in the consumer foods business, which reported flat profits and lower margins for the year. Kerry made its name in the consumer foods business and leads the UK market in ready meals and the Irish market in cooked meats and cheese.

Still, it is now essentially an ingredients and flavours (I&F) business with a consumer arm stuck on.

Unlike the consumer business, I&F surged ahead. Profits rose 15pc while margins climbed by 10 basis points.

I&F is now the driver of Kerry's growth. Chief executive Stan McCarthy said he expected to spend about €200-€250m on acquisitions this year, and the likelihood is that most of it will go on the ingredients sector.

The outlook of earnings growth of between 7pc and 11pc is close to what Kerry had forecast during 2011 and 2012.

Unlike most sectors of the economy, the food industry has continued to surge ahead. Notwithstanding the horse-meat scandal, it is likely to keep growing. Kerry hit its highest ever share price yesterday – it is unlikely to be the last high it hits this year. Peter Flanagan

Irish Independent

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