James Moore: The long-term outlook is looking pretty sweet for Tate & Lyle

Investment View: If you invest in this company you'll have to put up with some volatility

Tate & Lyle

Our view Buy on Weakness

Price 730p (-4p)

The City's reaction to Tate & Lyle's half-year results yesterday was more bitter than sweet. The headlines said profits were hit by the cost of reopening an American factory that makes "Splenda" artificial sweeteners, combined with the tough conditions that face almost any company that does business in Europe.

Although sales role 7 per cent to £1.63bn in the first half of the business' financial year, adjusted earnings came in it £179m, up by just 2 per cent. No wonder the shares were under pressure in the market yesterday, then.

If you invest in this company you'll have to put up with volatility. Since I last looked at the stock on 20 March, the shares have been all over the place.

For most of the intervening months they have been well below that level, hitting a low of 633.5p in June before roaring back in September and October, not without the support of some brokers who felt the shares could go higher still.

At that time I said "hold" at 704p for the longer term, although I advised that people who'd bought in at 524.5p, when The Independent first started going sweet on the operation, might want to take some profits.

There's been some profit taking among City institutions recently, so the shares are now a little way off the 12-month high 738.5p recorded a couple of weeks ago, and the slightly disappointing results might see them drifting for a while longer.

Tate & Lyle no longer owns the iconic European sugar-refining business that bore its name which, along with its London golden syrup factory, were sold to American Sugar Refining in 2010, together with the rights to the historic "Lyle's Golden Syrup" brand name.

Indulging in some corporate verbal diarrhea, the company now calls itself "a global provider of distinctive, high-quality ingredients and solutions to the food, beverage and other industries". In other word's it is a multinational agri-business.

What this means is that its products can be found in any number of different food items which you were probably unaware of – from toast (soluble corn fibre) to yogurt (starches to provide texture) to jam (fructose sweetners). You may even find its industrial starches in your office.

The growth potential in some of its key areas are clear.

For artificial sweetners there's the world's sweet tooth and mounting concern about obesity, while animal feed should do well from rising meat consumption in fast-growing economies like China's.

Then there are bioproducts, which are not uncontroversial but provide an alternative to fossil-based hydrocarbons. And so it goes on.

Margins are also very solid, although they were hit in the recent reporting period by a lengthy strike/lock out in Turkey which doesn't reflect all that well on the company (note to management, if you work with your staff you get more out of them).

So even if the company's results this time around weren't exactly thrilling, the long-term outlook is actually rather positive.

There are still some headwinds: a big part of the business is reliant on corn and the drought in America's mid-west made for a rotten harvest with hot and dry conditions in Europe meaning it wasn't able to pick up the slack. So costs are up and the supply chain has been affected.

What's more, the company isn't all that cheap, based on its earnings multiple of 13 times forecasts for the year ending 31 March 2013. The yield is no better better than average, at a prospective 3.5 per cent, although that's more than two times covered and the company's debt levels are relatively light, and falling.

I'd stick with the advice to hold. But if the shares continue falling, to the extent that they start to dip below the 650p level again, I might be inclined to stash a few more away.

Tate & Lyle is a generally well-run outfit that should continue to provide a quality return. So hold for now, but buy on any weakness.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent