Buying spree lifts Cadbury profits: Confectionery and soft drink company makes US acquisitions and improvements in efficiency

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AN ACQUISITIONS spree last year and improvements in efficiency enabled Cadbury Schweppes, the drinks and confectionery group, to lift pre-tax profits by a quarter to pounds 416.3m in 1993.

David Wellings, chief executive, said the results showed there was still 'considerable momentum' in the business.

'Competition remains intense, but we expect to show further progress this year. We have a strong base from which to continue our growth,' added Dominic Cadbury, chairman.

The group spent pounds 476m on acquisitions last year, buying A & W Brands, the US root-beer manufacturer; increasing its stake in Dr Pepper/Seven-Up a rival US company; and adding to its confectionery interests with deals in Argentina, Poland, India and China.

Cadbury is keen to secure a seat on the Dr Pepper board and Mr Cadbury said talks were continuing. The two groups were also discussing co-operation in the manufacture of concentrates for drinks and in using Cadbury's bottling capacity to expand sales of Dr Pepper outside the US.

He added that acquisitions would remain part of the group's strategy. 'We don't take on more than we can handle, but we are ambitious too,' Mr Cadbury said.

Borrowings fell pounds 21m to pounds 357m, 27 per cent of net assets, helped by September's pounds 324m rights issue.

Total acquisitions added pounds 17m to trading profits, while exchange benefits added a further pounds 21m. But profits from the on-going business, at constant exchange rates, still increased by 7.2 per cent.

Turnover increased by 10.4 per cent to pounds 3.7bn. Again, much of the increase was due to acquisitions and exchange fluctuations.

One of the best performances came from the British businesses, where trading profits rose 13 per cent to pounds 195m, despite an extra pounds 7m pension cost.

Cadbury and Trebor Bassett increased profits by 26 per cent and 12 per cent respectively while soft drinks profits rose 15 per cent.

Europe remained disappointing with a pounds 4m drop in profits to pounds 45m, despite acquisitions and a pounds 5m exchange benefits. That was largely due to a pounds 19m charge for restructuring the troubled Spanish operation.

Margins improved from 11 per cent to 11.7 per cent.

Earnings per share were 30.59p, up from 26.41p, while the dividend is increased by 9.1 per cent to 14.4p, via a 10.8p (9.9p) final.

The shares closed unchanged at 494p.

(Photograph omitted)

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