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Bernard Matthews profits revealed

PUBLISHED: 06:12 29 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:58 06 July 2010

Jeff Halliwell, Bernard Matthews managing director

Jeff Halliwell, Bernard Matthews managing director

Paul Hill, business editor

A turnaround in fortunes for one of East Anglia's best-known brands can be revealed today after Bernard Matthews Farms turned multi-million pound losses into a modest profit.

A turnaround in fortunes for one of East Anglia's best-known brands can be revealed today after Bernard Matthews Farms turned multi-million pound losses into a modest profit.

The turkey giant made an operating profit of £857,000 in 2008 - a far cry from the £9.6m operating loss it suffered the year before.

The company's latest accounts also reveal the extent of the restructuring that has been going on at Matthews in the last two years - telling the story of how returning to its core turkey business and sale of its sandwich and pastry operations have put the company back on track.

Rising sales of the brand's traditional frozen favourites - such as Mini Kievs and Golden Drummers - were "highlights" of the improved performance, the firm said.

Next year Matthews - which has 2,200 employees and production plants at Great Witchingham in Norfolk and Holton in Suffolk - will introduce a new £1 "value" range in the light of consumers' "focus on price".

But UK managing director Jeff Halliwell said the modest operating profit was "a poor return" on a business that had sales of £335.5m last year.

"It's a move in the right direction after a couple of difficult couple of years," Mr Halliwell said.

"But it's a modest improvement and progress against the three-year turnaround programme and there's a lot more that we need to achieve."

Mr Halliwell said the company was pressing ahead with plans for a general healthy-eating campaign aimed at increasing consumption of turkey generally - whether supermarket own-brand or Bernard Matthews Farms products.

But he added that the management would continue to "bear down on costs".

After redundancies earlier this year, Mr Halliwell said there were "no specific plans" for future job cuts.

"I'd love to be able to guarantee everyone's job for all time, but any managing director of any business who said that would either be a fool or a liar," Mr Halliwell said.

"We'll continue to look at all costs across the business and that can't exclude any area. Agriculture, production, sales, finance and marketing - all areas are going to have to operate more efficiently because times are tough."

He added: "As far as trading is concerned this year, sales are steady, but the trading environment remains very difficult.

"Consumers are cautious, and there's a real focus on price. But we're looking at a continued level of modest improvement in 2009 compared to 2008."

The accounts show a pre-tax loss of £77.2m in 2007 became a £4.4m pre-tax loss last year.

The 2007 loss reflects a £56m "goodwill write-down" - an accounting measure that reflected the impact on the value of the Bernard Matthews brand of bird flu at the time.

cOMMENT - Page 26

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