Sales for the company’s sugar business were down 13% to £938m, while adjusted operating profit dropped 27% to £90m – down from £123m in the previous year.
ABF attributed the drop to significantly lower EU prices, which had adversely affected its UK and Spanish businesses. This had been partially mitigated by a larger UK crop, said ABF.
Grocery sales grew 1% to £1.67bn as adjusted operating profit rose 5% to £159m, driven by growth hot drinks business Twinings Ovaltine – especially in Thailand and Switzerland.
Grocery sales driven by Twinings
In the UK there was an increase in the market share of private-label bread, while the Christmas trading period saw a strong performance from Kingsmill.
ABF continued to invest in its brands, with the launch of Kingsmill Super Seeds and craft loaves from Allinsons, and a national television advertising campaign. Continued progress was made in reducing the operating loss at Allied Bakeries in this financial year, ABF added.
Net cash from investing activities was down more than £500m compared with the same period in 2017, with £195m spent on the purchasing of subsidiaries and joint ventures – compared with £81m last year.
However, ABF made no disposals in the 24 weeks to 3 March 2018, while in the same period in 2017 the company made £255m on the sale of both the group’s US herbs and spices business and south China cane sugar operations.
Group revenue up 2%
Group revenue for the firm was up 2% to £7.42bn – up 3% in constant currency. Adjusted profit before tax grew 1% to £628m, while adjusted operating profit fell 1% to £648m.
George Weston, chief executive of ABF, said: “The group made progress in this period. Good sales and profit growth was achieved by all of our businesses at constant currency, other than sugar, where the reduction was as expected.
“Our full-year outlook for the group is unchanged, with progress expected in both adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share.”