Bensons losses cut by Bash Street Kids

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Bensons Crisps is following up the huge success of its Dandy and Beano maize snacks last year with a Bash Street Kids snack. Sales of the 10p product in June last year quickly climbed to a million packets a week. Although the figure has come back, Bensons said yesterday they had become an important part of the group's range.

As well as the Bash Street Kids product, Bensons, which brought the world hedgehog flavour crisps, is putting in a new tortilla manufacturing line.

Malcolm Jones, chief executive, said the snack sector continued to enjoy volume growth of an estimated 6 per cent a year. Although it did not suffer the same buying pressures as the crisp business in 1994, due to the strength of branded products, "in 1995 competition on both branded and private label business has been fierce, with manufacturers unable to pass on raw material price increases apart from in selective niche areas".

He was speaking as Bensons, which underwent a refinancing a year ago, announced that losses had been slashed from pounds 6.72m to just pounds 742,000 in the 12 months to November and revealed that it expected to resume dividend payments this year. The group is seeking court approval to wipe out the current deficit on distributable reserves and said it intended to make a nominal interim payment to shareholders, assuming first-half trading meets expectations.

Stuart Forshaw of joint brokers Henry Cooke Lumsden said he was expecting a total dividend of 1p for 1995-96.

Sales rose 3 per cent to pounds 31.2m, with a record second half for crisps and snacks turning a first-half loss of pounds 955,000 into a surplus of pounds 1.18m in the second six months. Mr Jones said labour productivity had risen by over a half since the second half of 1994. This improvement, combined with overhead savings from the closure of a factory in South Wales, had realised the annual cost savings target of pounds 2.25m set at the time of the refinancing.

The results included a pounds 928,000 write-down on the Sight & Sound business earmarked for disposal.