Princes, the UK food and drinks supplier that has been the subject of takeover interest, moved into the red in its last full financial year.

The company, part of Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp., reported a loss attributable to its owners of £42.7m in the 12 months to the end of March 2023 – against a profit of £17.2m a year earlier.

An impairment charge of more than £57.7m was central to Princes becoming loss-making during the period, accounts filed with Companies House, the UK’s business register, show.

The canned food and shelf-stable drinks manufacturer also pointed to higher finance charges and rising costs.

Reports emerged in January last year that Mitsubishi had appointed advisers to handle a possible sale of Princes, which it has owned since 1989.

Takeover speculation swirled around the Liverpool-based business throughout last year. Two weeks before Christmas, Newlat, the Italy-based food manufacturer, revealed it was in “very advanced” talks to buy Princes, the UK food-and-drinks supplier.

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By GlobalData

The bakery, dairy and pasta supplier’s statement came in the wake of a Sky News report that said Newlat was one of two remaining bidders for Princes, alongside UK-based private-equity firm Epiris. The buy-out house has not commented publicly on its reported interest in the business.

The Companies House filing showed Princes booked a pre-tax profit before the impairment charges of £7.1m, down from £29m a year earlier.

Turnover stood at £1.74bn, against £1.44bn in the 12 months previous. Higher selling prices helped Princes’ top line, it said.

Tellingly, the Companies House report also states: “The directors, along with Mitsubishi Corporation, are reviewing the investment strategy of the business, which could lead to a sale.”

Princes has two food factories and three beverage production sites in the UK. The company also has a tomato-processing facility in Italy and a tuna-processing site in Mauritius. During the year to the end of March 2023, the company employed, on average, 6,734 full-time staff, down from 6,977 the year before.