UK fresh prepared food company Geest has said its full-year profit is unlikely to meet current market forecasts.

The company said total operating profit for the first half of 2004, before goodwill and the impact of changed pension accounting, is likely to be up to £2m (US$3.7m) below the same period in 2003, in line with the company’s expectations. However, the company said retail customer issues are expected to affect the rate of sales growth in the second half.

Geest said that as a result of this it now anticipates “that the current market profit consensus for the company is unlikely to be achieved”. Geest said it will look to give further guidance in September.

Geest said it continues to see growth in its core business of UK fresh prepared foods, with the most recent consumer data for the 12 weeks to 25 May showing market growth, at retail prices, of 7%.

“The trading performances of the company’s retail customers are clearly diverging and this is becoming more marked as 2004 progresses, which, in turn, is likely to affect the rate of sales growth for Geest in the second half,” the company said, adding that trading conditions in UK fresh prepared foods were likely to remain difficult, particularly for certain Geest customers.