Produce glut upsets Fisher

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The Independent Online
A WORLDWIDE glut of fresh fruit and vegetables, which has sent prices plunging, has forced Albert Fisher, the fruits distributor, to issue a profits warning.

The warning came as the group, which grew rapidly by acquisition in the 1980s, was struggling to re- establish its reputation in the City after a series of rumours and adverse comments. Yesterday, Fisher shares closed down 25p at 41p, having touched 36p at one stage. At their peak last year, they stood at 133p.

The group said that exceptionally abundant crops of a range of fruit and vegetables had caused an 'unprecedented and unforeseen oversupply'. Profits in the second half of the year would be 'significantly below' expectations at the time it announced its interim results in April. Fisher said it was 'inappropriate' to forecast the final dividend.

Analysts reacted by slashing their forecasts for the year to August from pounds 77m to pounds 63m, down from pounds 89m last time. That would give earnings of 7.3p and would mean a maintained dividend of 3.75p would be covered 1.9 times.

Tony Millar, chairman, said oversupply was usually restricted to a small number of products and was balanced by shortages elsewhere. This year, good weather and over-optimism among growers about the potential of eastern Europe meant an oversupply across the whole range, forcing prices down.

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