Moran, 51 will join Premier as CFO next month

Moran, 51 will join Premier as CFO next month

UK food manufacturer Premier Foods plc has today (25 November) appointed Mark Moran as its CFO.

Moran, 51, will join Premier next month and will replace Jim Smart who is expected to remain with the company until early next year.

Moran most recently served as group finance director at SSL International, which was recently acquired by Reckitt Benckiser.

Premier CEO Michael Clarke said: "Mark Moran will be a terrific addition to the team. His expertise will be invaluable as we continue our journey to rebuild the company and restore growth. I'm delighted that our new leadership team is now complete."

Smart joined Premier in 2009, a year in which the company had faced concerns over its debts and how it planned to restructure its balance sheet.

Reflecting on Premier's appointment of a new CFO, Investec analyst Martin Deboo said the company's investors owed Smart "a debt of gratitude" for his time at the UK's largest food maker.

Deboo said Smart was a "steadying influence" when confidence in the then Premier CEO Robert Schofield was "eroding".

"His signal achievements, in our view, were the closing out of Premier's toxic digital swap arrangements and the disposals of the Quorn and Canning businesses," Deboo said.

However, Premier has had a tough 2011. The company warned in October that annual trading profit would be below expectations. A dispute with a major customer, believed to be Tesco, hit volumes and the market is watching how Premier trades during the last quarter of 2011 with particular interest. The company is also looking to refinance its debts and there are some concerns over its pension responsibility. 

New CEO Michael Clarke has earmarked eight "power brands" on which Premier should focus, although since the new strategy was announced, one brand, Loyd Grossman cooking sauces, has been linked to possible botulism contamination. Moran, Deboo said, "will need to get to grips with a crisis situation".

The Investec analyst did find some positives in the appointment. The announcement of Moran as CFO followed the recent appointments of two trading directors at Premier and Deboo said: "The positive aspect is that Mike Clarke is now in command of a senior team that he has been able to fashion entirely around his own imperatives and requirements."

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said Moran "obviously likes a challenge" and will join a business that "remains constrained to put it mildly".