Bensons Crisps falls into loss

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SHARES IN Bensons Crisps, the USM-listed snack maker and distributor, slumped 12 per cent yesterday to a three-year low of 81p as the company fell into the red.

Bensons' traditional market has been independent retailers, who have been squeezed by the large supermarket chains that dominate food shopping.

Losses for the six months to 30 May were pounds 191,000 compared with a profit last time of pounds 345,000.

Bensons makes cheap crisps and while the recession has meant that demand for has risen, wholesale buyers have been tough on price. Turnover, however, increased 33 per cent to pounds 15.6m. The company also incurred the cost of disruption as it reorganised itself into two divisions - manufacturing and distribution.

Malcolm Jones, chairman, who owns 20 per cent of the company, said: 'Trading conditions throughout the first six months have been as difficult as any I have ever experienced in the snacks industry.'

Despite the poor first half, which delivered a loss per share of 1.7p against earnings last time of 2.8p, Bensons has held its dividend at 0.7p.

Bensons usually does better in its second half of the year, primarily because potatoes are cheaper. Mr Jones said the harvest this year was good and he expected to deliver a better overall performance in the second half of this year than the second half last time.

Smith New Court, Bensons' stockbroker, predicted that the company would reverse the interim loss to post pounds 700,000 of profits for the full 12 months. It also forecast that the total dividend would be maintained at 2.75p.

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