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Perkins plays it safe and pegs payout

PERKINS Foods, the fruit and vegetable trader, has held its interim dividend after improving pre-tax profits in the six months to 30 June, writes Robert Cole.

Howard Phillips, chief executive, blamed the caution on a glut of produce in Europe. This has denied the company profits on imports from further afield. He said there was also a softening of demand for frozen and chilled foods.

Pre-tax profits, helped by a series of acquisitions, rose to pounds 10.9m from pounds 10.5m. Earnings per share, however, fell 6 per cent to 4.8p.

Perkins is suffering from the same problem as its rival, Albert Fisher, whose chairman, Tony Millar, left the company in July after warnings about profits.

Like Fisher, Perkins grew rapidly by acquisition in the late 1980s. It signalled yesterday that it is switching strategy to concentrate on organic growth.

Announcing the 1.7p interim payment, Mr Phillips indicated that the total dividend for the year was likely to equal last year's 4.3p. The shares rose 2p to 64p.