Tate & Lyle today (2 April) warned that annual pre-tax profits would fall below the guidance the UK ingredients group gave in January.

The Splenda maker said profits for the year to 31 March would be “marginally below” its forecast two months ago, when it said earnings would come in level with the previous year’s figure of GBP253m (US$371.8m).

Tate & Lyle said demand for sweeteners and industrial starches in the Americas was “weak”, while ethanol margins and volumes were under “severe pressure”.

Nevertheless, the company said earnings per share are expected to be “broadly in line with market expectations” due to lower tax expenses. The group said it had also reduced debt by GBP300m in the first three months of 2009.

Chief executive Iain Ferguson said the company had made “solid progress” in cutting debt and would continue to focus on “matters under our control”.

Ferguson said: “We remain a well-financed business and confident of our ability to deliver positive cash flows.”

Shares in Tate & Lyle were up 9.3% at 283.25p at 11:25 BST This morning.

The company will issue its preliminary results on 28 May.