Troubled Northern reviews business

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Northern Foods is embarking on a major review of its operations in a drive to put last year's poor performance behind it.It has put its 15 companies...

Northern Foods is embarking on a major review of its operations in a drive to put last year's poor performance behind it.

It has put its 15 companies into four divisions -- two chilled food, one ambient and one frozen -- to increase purchasing power.

It called the financial year 2003/04 "difficult and disappointing", with the loss of a big savoury products contract with Sainsbury and disruption during a period of record temperatures. It unveiled a pre-tax profit of £86m in 2003/04, down 12% on the previous year.

In 2003 it sold its Fox's confectionery business and its Batchelors and Beck Smith operations in Ireland. It sold its Emile Tissot catering business and Eden Vale Minsterly chilled dairy business this May.

Chairman Peter Blackburn said initiatives already in place have delivered savings of £3m. He expected the latest changes to produce annual savings of £15m by 2006.

Analysts expected the group to improve its position in the current year and the sale of large, mature businesses. "Northern looks in better shape to tackle the challenges that lie ahead," said Andrew Saunders, an analyst at Numis.

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