Allied's food businesses, which include Tetley tea and Ostler cookies, have been valued at up to pounds 1bn by some analysts but it is unlikely that Hillsdown would be interested in buying the whole group. It would probably be prevented buying the tea business on monopoly grounds, but some of Allied's biscuit brands could complement its Cadbury chocolate biscuit range.
David Newton, chief executive, said the group would continue its strategy of bolt-on acquisitions to strengthen its core operations. He hinted that there could be purchases of chilled foods businesses in Europe by the end of the year. On Tuesday, the group bought a jam company in France, giving it its first manufacturing base there.
Mr Newton's comments came as the group announced a 5.3 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 65.6m on sales 4.6 per cent higher at pounds 2.03bn. Earnings were 5.5p (5.1p) a share and the interim dividend was held at 2.2p. Sir John Nott, chairman, said he hoped that the group could return to a 'more positive dividend policy at the end of the year,' although he warned that the food market remained difficult.
Profits of the ambient and chilled division, which includes jam and salads, fell pounds 1m to pounds 15.3m.
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