Matthew Clark loses some fizz

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The Independent Online
THE RECESSIONARY lack of demand for champagne helped to drive profits down at Matthew Clark, the drinks producer and distributor, for the year to 30 April.

The pre-tax figure of pounds 4.6m is 18 per cent lower than last year, but earnings per share rose 13.5 per cent to 33.6p because the company bought out minority interests in its JE Mather subsidiary.

The final dividend has been raised 12.1 per cent to 9.25p, making a total of 15.75p, a 12.5 per cent increase. Turnover, net of duty, rose 6 per cent to pounds 39m.

Sales of Tattinger champagne, for which Clark has the agency, suffered badly, but the company has gained market share in sherry despite a strike in Jerez which disrupted supplies over the crucial Christmas period.

Peter Aikens, chief executive, said: 'Our strategy continues to be one of pursuing profitable growth in the UK drinks market, both organically and by acquisition.'

But he added that this year would be one of consolidation. Matthew Clark bought Strathmore, the Scottish mineral water company, for pounds 11m in April.

Jonathan Goble, an analyst at BZW, was optimistic about the company's prospects, forecasting earnings growth of 15 per cent this year and of 10 per cent in 1993.

'The quality of the management is good and they have made good acquisitions,' he said. 'Now they should be able to consolidate and grow, although they will still be looking for more suitable acquisitions.'

He added: 'Buying Strathmore was a good idea. On the face of it they paid a high multiple, but that company has seen exponential growth in the last few years and is set to grow another 65 per cent or so this year.'

Yesterday the shares fell 7p to 447p.