Bernard Matthews has hailed “modest progress” in its turnaround strategy as it unveiled full year results showing a small increase in operating profits.

Announcing its results for the year to 28 December 2008, it reported that a £9.6m loss in operating profits in 2007 had turned into an £857,000 uplift in 2008. Its pre-tax losses, meanwhile, had fallen from £77.2m to £4.4m.

The figures proved the group’s turnaround strategy was working, said managing director Jeff Halliwell. “The strategy is starting to bear fruit,” he said. “It’s moving in the right direction. There’s more to achieve in coming years.”

The company claimed that improvement in the UK had been “to some extent offset” by the performance of its Hungarian subsidiary, Saga Foods, which was hit by high feed costs and the low prices being paid for meat.

Financial director Andy Simpson attributed a 3.8% fall in group turnover from £348.9m to £335.5m partly to the disposal of its pastry and sandwich businesses and its New Zealand and UK lamb supply arms during 2007 and the early part of 2008. Sales had also been hit by the outbreak of avian influenza at Bernard Matthews farms in early 2007, he said.

Bernard Matthews would enter the new year with caution, said marketing director Matt Pullen. “We want to go forward to the new year actually thinking that the environment is not going to change that much,” he said.

Pullen revealed the company was in discussions with retailers about introducing a £1 price point for a number of its products in time for Christmas.

It had also identified an opportunity to grow the UK market for turkey consumption and was now in the process of carrying out consumer tests with a view to promoting turkey mince as a better value alternative to beef mince, he said.

Halliwell would not be drawn on his financial expectations for the year ending December 2009. “The company’s expectation is for further modest progress,” he said.

Halliwell named as new Bernard Matthews MD (6/6/09)
Bernard Matthews hit by new avian flu alarm (26/2/09)