News briefs: Premier Foods, Sara Lee and J&J Snacks

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Stock Premier foods

As the commodity squeeze continues to bite, Premier Foods slashes
its shareholder payout, Sara Lee chairman buys some of her own
shares, and J&J snack foods increases prices across the US.

Premier Foods plans to slash dividend ​ Troubled UK bakery firm Premier Foods plans to cut its dividend by more than 50 per cent after its share price tumbled last week, the Financial Times reported today. According to the FT, the company will make the move to try and balance its books after its share price plummeted last month. Shares closed at a record low of 97p on the 25 February, after an unnamed shareholder sold 15m shares at 96p. The company has so far remained tight-lipped over the dividend cut, although it said earlier this month it "will announce its proposed final dividend for 2007 on4 March 2008, as part of its preliminary results announcement, in line with its normal practice."​ Like many other food firms, Premier Foods has suffered financially this year because of the rising cost of commodities such as wheat, milk and oil. Organic profit in 2007 dropped 49.9 per cent, the company said earlier this year. Sara Lee chairman purchases company stocks ​Brenda Barnes, the chief executive of Sara Lee, has bought 10,000 shares in the company after the stock hit its lowest level in over seven years. In a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Barnes revealed that she paid $12.99 for each share, totalling $129,900. Her total stock holding now amounts to 785,000 shares, the filing revealed. Last month, the company reported profit gains for the second quarter of the fiscal year 2008, stating that operating income for the period increased to $323m dollars. However, the company also said that it would have to raise bread prices for the fourth time in a row in an attempt to cope with soaring wheat costs. J&J Snack Foods ups consumer prices ​J&J Snack Foods, which manufactures products such as Mary B's biscuits and dumplings and Daddy Ray's fig and fruit bars for the US market, has announced that it will increase the price of most of its ranges this April.​ The company said it was driven to put prices up because of "unprecedented"​ commodity costs, particularly for wheat and dairy. "While we continue to manage our company for the long term and are sensitive to the impact on our customers, we feel it necessary to take this additional pricing action because commodity costs have escalated sharply since we announced our previous price increase,"​ said president and chief executive officer Gerald Shreiber. "We will not allow our margins to deteriorate further without attempting to at least partially offset the continuing cost increases." ​The company did not detail the exact increases for each product, but stated that they will be as high as 12 per cent, "depending on the ingredient makeup of individual product lines." ​ The increase is the company's second in a six month period.

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