IAWS looks to the future

Related tags United states dollar Currency

A substantial increase in goodwill amortisation costs pushed down
operating profits at Irish baked goods and agribusiness group IAWS
in the first half. But sales increased during the half, even after
the impact of currency movements, leaving the company bullish about
its longer term prospects, writes Chris Jones.

The company said that "non-disclosed bolt-on acquisitions"​ during the year were the main reason for the 14 per cent increase in goodwill amortisation during the half, and this in turn reduced operating profits by 2 per cent to €30.8 million.

But these acquisitions also helped IAWS improve its sales by 4 per cent during the half to €599.7 million, despite the impact of exchange rates.

With the decision to push a substantial part of the goodwill through its balance sheet inevitably depressing profits for the half, IAWS stressed the longer term potential of it businesses, in particular its Cuisine de France unit in the UK which supplies French bread and pastry products to the convenience store sector.

"This sector has seen a series of major consolidations over the past 18 months which is creating a new universe of increasingly professional convenience multiples. This has brought increased investment to both existing and new convenience stores. These stores represent a key opportunity for the group,"​ IAWS said in a statement.

The Delice de France brand, which covers the horeca (hotel, restaurant, catering) sector, faced more challenging conditions, the company added, stressing that its focus on the high quality end of the market had enabled it to post "satisfactory"​ sales in a "challenging market"​.

Conditions were no less challenging in the US, mostly due to the impact of the weak dollar, although the La Brea artisan bread business posted a healthy sales growth of 13 per cent in local currencies. The hugely popular Atkins diet fad - which encourages dieters to eat fewer carbohydrates and thus has affected bread sales across the country - had not impacted La Brea's business, the company said, because of the premium positioning of its products and their already healthy image.

IAWS has invested €200 million in expanding its businesses in North America - combining manufacturing and distribution functions for LA Brea and Cuisine de France there and constructing a new bakery in Canada to supply the 2,300-outlet Tim Horton's coffee shop chain - and is gambling significantly on the potential there.

But with both its main revenue streams coming from non-euro markets (the UK and North America), the company's immediate future is likely to be dictated more by the fluctuations of sterling and the US dollar than by IAWS own efforts. Nonetheless, underlying sales growth of 8 per cent is nothing to sniff at, and should give IAWS a solid base on which to build its increasingly upmarket bakery business.

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