Yesterday, UK food manufacturer Uniq posted a substantial pre-tax loss, after the foot and mouth crisis and the weak euro buffeted results for the year to March 2001.

Compared to the previous year when it racked up £124.3m, Uniq saw pre-tax profits fall 54% to £57.5m. Operating losses and write-downs at its Malton Foods pig meat arm, along with the restructuring costs incurred as the group sold off its dairy and cheese unit to Dairy Crest, meant that overall Uniq notched up exceptional losses of £158.7m, and a pre-tax loss of £118.4m.

The group, which was created from the former Unigate, also revealed that its loss-making Malton would be sold as the company focuses on restyling itself as a convenience business.

Having shut down its Middlesborough factory last December, Malton will now close its Winsford, Cheshire, plant this week, with the loss of 400 jobs. Buffeted by the swine fever, then the foot and mouth epidemic and the related slaughtering and export bans, the business lost £11.4m this year, down from a profit of £15.3 a year ago. It also accounted for £71.6m of Uniq's exceptional costs.

Admitting that the results were disappointing, CEO Terry Stannard stressed yesterday that they were also of a "one off nature" because of the animal diseases. He also insisted that Uniq's board was optimistic about the company's future, negating analyst's suggestions that the group would consider a buyout by a private equity group.