Clifford's jumps on bid talks

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SHARES jumped in Clifford's Foods, the Berkshire-based dairy products, fruit juices and prepared foods group, after it disclosed it was in possible bid talks.

Avonmore Foods, the acquisitive Irish dairy and meat products group, was widely tipped as a suitor but it ruled itself out last night.

Danish dairy interests have also been suggested and there have been rumours of a management buyout of Clifford's non-dairy interests.

Clifford's ordinary shares soared by 85p to 505p and the more widely held 'A' non-voting shares rose by 32p to 216p valuing the company at pounds 41.8m.

Analysts said an approach from UK dairy groups was unlikely because of competition questions.

Avonmore, which has 4 per cent of the UK liquid milk market and would like 10 per cent, paid pounds 10.5m in November for two UK dairies.

Clifford's made pre-tax profits of pounds 5.3m in 1991 on sales of pounds 140.5m but reported a plunge in interim profits from pounds 2.5m to pounds 1m because of modernisation costs and competitive pressures.

Northumbrian Fine Foods, the Prewetts health food group, yesterday revealed the full cost of its disastrous acquisition in August 1991 of Lees Group, its Scottish macaroon and confectionery arm.

Having paid pounds 4.8m for the company Northumbrian has sold Lees to Claymore Group for pounds 1.15m in cash payable in instalments over five years. Lees has lost a net pounds 634,000 before tax since its purchase and on top of goodwill write-offs of pounds 2.9m has suffered other write-downs of more than pounds 2m.

The news accompanied half- year figures from Northumbrian showing a pre-tax loss of pounds 1.06m in the six months to 30 September following a profit of pounds 252,800. There is no interim dividend.

Northumbrian shares were requoted and closed at 15p after suspension at 17p on Thursday.

The figures include a loss of pounds 667,800 at Lees for the 10 months to 31 January, the date of its disposal. There is also an exceptional charge of pounds 215,000 to cover redundancies.