Hilton Food Group said today (9 January) its full-year trading was “in line” with management expectations but shares in the UK meat group slid amid a mixed geographic performance.
The UK-based meat processor, which supplies Tesco in the UK and Ahold’s Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, said volume growth in these markets was partially offset by “weak” demand in Ireland and falling volumes in Denmark.
The group’s performance in Sweden was described as “steady” while conditions in central Europe remained “competitive”. In Australia, where Hilton has entered into a joint venture with Woolworths plc, the country’s largets grocer, it said it continued to make “good progress”.
Looking to the year ahead, the firm was upbeat. “The outlook for 2015 remains positive, with the facility investment in Huntingdon expected to be commissioned by the end of the first quarter of 2015, despite some markets in continental Europe expected to remain subdued.”
Shore Capital analysts were also positive on the group’s prospects. “Comment [was] made about the major investment at Huntingdon in the UK coming on stream in Q1 whilst Australia should press on too. To our minds if Tesco can engineer further improvement in Central Europe and Ireland then Hilton should be a beneficiary of such activity. That said management does caution about ongoing challenges in a number of continental European markets,” the brokerage wrote in a note to investors.
Shore Capital made no change to full-year earnings forecasts for pre-tax profit of GBP24.9m (US$37.7m) and EPS of 24.5p, representing around a 1% year-on-year decline.
Hilton shares were down 2.71% at 386.25p at 09:03 GMT.