The Week In Review: The cost of a healthy lifestyle

Can things get any worse for Northern Foods? In the wake of last month's profits warning from the food producer, its shares have continued to lose ground and are at an all-time low.

Northern seems to be under siege from all sides. Sales are under pressure because of changing eating habits. Consumers are shunning the group's sausage rolls and quiches for healthier alternatives.

On the cost side, conditions are also difficult. Northern is up against rising energy prices: it cooks the majority of its foods and has been hit by soaring utility bills. Worse, it has been unable to pass on these costs to food retailers.

Pat O'Driscoll, who 18 months ago was parachuted into the company with a mandate to carry out reforms, now finds herself in an unenviable position. Last month, she launched a strategic review, the conclusions of which will be made public alongside annual results in May.

Things are likely to get worse before they get better at Northern Foods. Sell.


If readers had bought £1,000 worth of W S Atkins shares on 1 October 2002, their stake would be now be worth more than £17,300. Shares in the engineering consultancy continued their meteoric rise after the group put out a bullish trading statement this week. Analysts now forecast pre-tax profits of about £70m for the year to 31 March 2006, up from £60m last time around. Take profits, but don't abandon the stock entirely. It trades at an undeserved discount to peers.


Ardana's announcement that its testosterone-replacement cream has passed an intermediate clinical trial was good news for many men, and the firm. It has a number of other drugs in the pipeline, the lead among them being Teverelix, a compound that has the potential to treat a range of conditions, including prostate cancer and endometriosis. Ardana is one of The Independent's stock tips of the year. Given the positive news, it remains very much a buy.


The electronics distributor Abacus has made its second acquisition of the year. Swallowing the profitable French-based company Axess Technology makes a lot of sense and sees Abacus become Europe's fourth-biggest player in its sector. Buy.


There seems little doubt that Bioquell has the technology to eradicate hospital superbugs such as Clostridium difficile and MRSA. But hospitals are not clamouring over one another to get their hands on Bioquell's technology. Until it starts getting major orders for its technology, the stock is best avoided.


Walker Greenbank broke into the black this week for the first time in six years. The designer registered full-year pre-tax profits of £2.6m compared to a loss of £800,000 in 2005. In the wake of the figures, analysts were forced to sharply upgrade their earnings forecasts, while directors are believed to have piled into the market. Buy.


The old advertising adage says that sex sells and SSL International's latest trading statement boasted of a 5 per cent rise in annual sales, helped by a series of new sex related products and some clever advertising. Takeover rumours have been behind the jump in the stock since the start of the year. A bid is a possibility but there are no guarantees and the shares are at a premium. Avoid.


The Kaye family, who were behind Garfunkel's and Ask Central, are on the way to another fortune from the restaurant business. Their latest venture Prezzo, an AIM listed Italian chain, has served up stellar annual figures - a rise in pre-tax profits from £4.1m to £6.4m with a 68 per cent jump in sales to £37m. Buy


Investing in football clubs has been a one-sided encounter over the years, with the misses currently giving the hits a sound thrashing. The latest results from Newcastle United did little to reverse this trend, with declining television coverage and a lack of European competition making a £6m dent in revenues. Sell.

Cash flows tell St Ives' profits story in black and white

Times are tough for the printing group St Ives plc. Intense competition is taking its toll on profits at the printer of Vogue, GQ, The Economist and the latest Harry Potter book.

Much of the damage is being done by privately owned rivals that have drastically cut prices to win new business. St Ives has announced a 24 per cent drop in pre-tax profits to £15.6m in its interim results. These figures were made worse after the group was forced to place work with rivals after it had to temporarily shut its US operations in Florida because of Hurricane Wilma.

St Ives still enjoys impressive cash flows, however. These make it an attractive prospect to private-equity players awash with money to invest.

In the first half of its financial year, the group generated £32m of cash flow from its operations. Of that total, £17m was spent on new equipment to make the business more efficient and the rest went towards cutting debt and paying dividends to shareholders. Buy.

The above recommendations are taken from the daily Investment Column

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Financial Controller

    £45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £12500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Adviser - OTE £24,500

    £22500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound and outbound calls with...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine