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Business Comment

James Moore: It's not sweet for Thorntons but let's keep it British

Outlook Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat,

Please put a penny in old Thorntons' hat,

If you haven't got a penny, a farthing will do,

If you haven't got a farthing, then god bless you.

Yes it's Christmas time and Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a seasonal profits warning from Thorntons. Does the rhyme make it sound too desperate for the company?

Not really. Various one-off nasties will likely push it into a full-year loss, and it will only just about be at break-even point at the operating level before they have been factored in.

The only blessing is the assurance from house broker Investec that its client doesn't appear to be in breach of its banking covenants. So no need for Tiny Tim to go cap in hand to Scrooge, at least not yet.

Sadly, we've been here before. Whether it's the summer (too hot) the winter (too cold, shoppers staying at home) or just, well, just about any time, Thorntons always seems to be getting hit where it hurts.

To be fair, the company has a bunch of onerous leases to deal with and the cost of closing 180 stores (selling through the internet and supermarkets is more economical) after which it might look a bit healthier.

But in a Christmas when there's all sorts of Dickensian gloom coming in from the economy it hardly comes as a surprise that Thorntons is right there in the middle of it all.

The company makes simply superlative chocolate. Trouble is the people who run the business seem to keep finding it hard to make money from this. Perhaps we should be thankful, though. The fact that Thorntons appears to be a bit of a basket case seems to have kept the predators away.

Those of us that love its product can be happy about that. And those who want to do a bit more for Tiny Tim Thorntons, could buy its shares as a charitable gesture, then use them to vote down any takeover that might appear.

That will keep their sweet treats as they like them, and ensure that Britain has at least one chocolatier left after the rapacious Kraft Foods crossed the Atlantic to gobble up Cadbury and proceeded to stomp all over the workers who made the stuff that made the brand great.