Bensons slides deeper into loss

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The Independent Online
BENSONS Crisps, the snack food manufacturer, has fallen deeper into loss and has passed its dividend for the first time in 10 years.

Bensons, which sells to pubs and provides own-brand supplies to supermarkets, lost pounds 1.3m in the six months to 28 May, compared with a loss of pounds 256,000 the year before.

Malcolm Jones, chairman, said it was unlikely that the group would make a full-year profit. The company's weakness made it a possible takeover target. 'I feel we are in a most vulnerable position.'

Bensons raised pounds 5.4m in a rights issue in April last year to partly fund the construction of a new factory in Kirkham, Lancashire. It spent pounds 845,000 in closing old sites and opening the new plant. Turnover growth and profit generation were hampered by the disruption caused by the move.

Mr Jones said: 'Supermarket and discount price wars drove down selling prices . . . production costs at the new factory are now lower than last year but came too late to prevent a reduction in margins in this half-year.'

Figures for the year to December will also suffer from a goodwill write-off likely to arise from Bensons' disposal yesterday of its van sales distributor network.

The loss-making subsidiary has been sold to Basicnew Trading, a private company, for pounds 750,000. Settlement of inter-company loans means Bensons' debt falls from pounds 3.5m to pounds 2.5m but gearing remains at 100 per cent.

The loss per share is 7.7p against 1.7p last time. The passed interim dividend compares with 0.7p for the first half of 1993, and a 2.85p total last year.

The shares fell 14p to a five-year low of 44p yesterday.