Dried fruit & nuts brand Whitworths slumped to a £50m loss last year as sales fell, a new IT system hampered supply, the former management team departed and loans were written off, delayed accounts have revealed.
The business was acquired by Turkish supply partner Anatolia in May for about £15m, with former PE owner Equistone failing to see a return on its investment, believed to be between £40m and £50m.
Whitworths had not filed accounts at Companies House since January 2016. It extended its year end from the start of May to 31 October 2016. Revenues for the 78-week financial year stood at £220m, compared with £157.8m for the 52 weeks to 2 May 2015. Sales were down to £147m on an annualised basis.
In March 2016, a new IT system hit customer service. The company lost an estimated £15.1m of sales from March to October 2016 as a result.
Exceptional costs of £52.2m dragged Whitworths to operating losses of £50m in the 78-week period, down from a £7.4m profit. Fixing the IT system cost £4.9m, while a further £1.2m was incurred to replace CEO Peter Utting and CFO Peter Unsworth, along with other trading costs. The bulk of the charges stemmed from a £44.6m impairment for unrecoverable loans as part of the Anatolia acquisition.
A Whitworths spokesman told The Grocer the business was profitable at an underlying level. “The business has been performing strongly,” he said. “The Whitworths brand has seen 55% year-on-year growth in the 12 weeks to August 2017. against the backdrop of a static market.
“This month, sales of Whitworths branded products have increased by 70% compared to the same time last year. As a business, we continue to invest in growth and innovation and, as part of this effort, this week we launched a new product range, and category first, Bright Little Nuts, to the UK market.”