Waterford Wedgewood losses widen as sales rise

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Shares in Waterford Wedgwood, the Ireland-based manufacturer of crystal and china products, fell as much as 14 per cent yesterday, after the company announced that its first-half losses had widened to almost €100m (£67m).

Although total sales for the six months to 30 September rose almost 11 per cent, boosted by the acquisition of Royal Doulton earlier this year, like-for-like sales fell 7 per cent, helping the group to a net loss of €94.7m.

Peter Cameron, the group chief executive, admitted that trading conditions remained tough, but he said the sustained losses had been expected during the company's restructuring. "This is a business in transition," he said. "We knew that losses would continue as they have in the April to September 2005 period, but the €90m restructuring programme will change the business fundamentally. We are already seeing benefits from the restructuring, in particular the acquisition of Royal Doulton earlier this year."

Mr Cameron added that the company had recently refinanced its debt facilities, securing a new €250m banking facility for the next four and a half years.

Waterford - whose chairman is Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the chief executive of The Independent's parent company - now expects benefits from the Royal Doulton acquisition to exceed original expectations. It said it is currently focusing on simplifying the company's operations, as well as attempting to increase profit margins through strategic price increases.

Mr Cameron said the company had also recently secured new distribution via a number of prestigious channels, and has broadened its product range to include several new contemporary collections such as Jasper Conran at Wedgwood, and Gordon Ramsey at Royal Doulton. "This and other focused new business initiatives to drive profitability are all in various stages of implementation," he continued. "When the benefits of all these actions flow through, Waterford Wedgwood's turnaround will have been effected."

Shares in the company recovered slightly during yesterday's trading, closing down around 5 per cent at 5.4 cents, giving the company a market value of €235m.