Irish drinks firm uncorks healthy profit

IRISH drinks firm C&C Group is hoping to make fresh acquisitions after posting higher first-half operating profit and the first rise in UK sales of Magners cider since 2007.

C&C, which acquired Gaymers cider and Scotland’s most popular lager, Tennent’s, in separate deals in the last 14 months, said its strong balance sheet would help it to pursue further deals.

Although the Irish and UK markets remained “unpredictable and challenging”, it said it was well-placed, with Magners continuing its recovery in the UK and enjoying encouraging export growth.

The group, which also owns Bulmers, Blackthorn and Addlestones ciders, had net cash of €20.8m (£18.3m) at the end of August, having sold its spirits and liqueurs business in April for €300m.

“We’re very well positioned to capitalise on any opportunities that present themselves over the next 12 to 18 months,” strategy director Kenny Neison said.

“It may well be there are distressed asset sales to come out in the next couple of years.”
However, chief executive John Dunsmore said the group’s priority was to integrate the businesses recently purchased.