Premier Foods issues profits warning - triggering share plunge

Britain's biggest food manufacturer Premier Foods has warned full year profits would fall below market expectations after sales slumped and said it was still discussing refinancing plans with its banks.

The company's shares plunged by 30 per cent after the announcement.

New chief executive Michael Clarke also set out plans to rejuvenate the business and said he had identified eight key brands which the business would focus on going forward.

The maker of Branston pickle, Bisto gravy and Hovis bread on Friday said total sales fell by 3.6 per cent to £477m in the third quarter with sales volumes dropping eight per cent. The company's market share dropped by 1.9 per cent in value terms and 2.1 per cent in overall sales volumes.

"While the current trading performance continues to be disappointing and significantly behind our expectations, we have already identified a number of steps to build a more profitable business," Clarke said in a statement.

Clarke, a former Kraft executive who joined the company in September, said Premier Foods had identified its eight key brands as Ambrosia, Batchelor's, Bisto, Hovis, Loyd Grossman, Mr. Kipling, Oxo and Sharwood's.