UK sugar and sweetener company Tate & Lyle today (28 May) refrained from issuing guidance for its coming financial year after announcing a 2% drop in annual pre-tax profits.

The company said underlying pre-tax profit for the 12 months to 31 March dropped to GBP247m (US$393.8m).

Profits fell in spite of an increase in total revenue, which rose from GBP2.87bn to GBP3.55bn.

"Although the new financial year has started in line with our expectations, the continuing global recession, and its uncertain impact on customer demand, makes it difficult to predict with confidence the outlook for the year ending March 31, 2010," Tate & Lyle said.

Tate & Lyle also announced that it plans to mothball a Sucralose manufacturing plant in McIntosh, Alabama.

The closure will result in an exceptional charge of GBP97m in the current financial year, with a further GBP60m to be paid over three years.

The company said that all its Sucralose would now be produced in Singapore, attributing the move to "a breakthrough in Sucralose manufacturing yields".

The company, which markets Sucralose under its flagship Splenda brand, has focused on the manufacture of the artificial sweetener in order to increase its focus in value added products.

However, since the group lost a patent case to protect the technical process for the manufacture of Sucralose, there have been concerns that it could face a sharp increase in competition in the artificial sweetener category.