Sugar sours Man results

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ED & F Man, the British commodities and financial services firm, yesterday made bullish noises about prospects, despite announcing a slump in interim results from pounds 32.8m to pounds 27.2m, reflecting a poor performance from its sugar and cocoa businesses.

Michael Metcalfe yesterday resigned as chairman of the cocoa division, but the company denied his departure was related to an increase in losses in his operation. Mr Metcalfe had been an executive director since 1985.

Harvey McGrath, group managing director, said he felt constructive about the second half, evidenced by the 6 per cent increase in its interim dividend to 3.4p. "Overall, we do a lot more business in the second half, due to seasonal factors relating to crops and consumption patterns," Mr McGrath said.

The cocoa business reported a first-half loss of pounds 4.5m, compared with a pounds 0.5m loss in the same period last year. Cocoa is now being run by Anthony Stillitano, who previously ran the US operation.

The sugar business made a pre-tax profit of pounds 12.5m, which compares with the pounds 16m made in the first half of last year.

Mr McGrath said that acquisitions might be possible.

He said that ED & F Man, the British firm most affected by US rules on trade with Cuba, would comply with the law.

America's Helms-Burton Act allows court action against non-US companies that "traffic" in confiscated Cuban assets.

However, Mr McGrath believes that Bill Clinton, the US President, will take action against the Act, which has prompted outcry in America.

"Clinton has been re-elected and he will do something about it in due course," said Mr McGrath.

He said that Mr Clinton could not stand for president again and may want to go down in history as having harmonised relations.