Hilton Food Group reports growth despite Brexit concerns

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Hilton fights off Brexit uncertainty

Related tags: Beef, Lamb

International meat processing business Hilton Food Group has revealed it has taken “mitigating action” and believes it is “sufficiently resilient” to withstand Brexit uncertainties, as it unveiled an increase in turnover and profits for the 52 weeks ended 30 December 2018.

The group said that it had seen volume growth of 13.5%, driven by a full-year contribution from Seachill, as well as its performance in Australia.

Turnover was up by 21.5% and 21.9% on a constant currency basis, while there was adjusted operating profit growth of 27.1% and 28.2% on a constant currency basis.  

Hilton said it continued to generate strong operating cash flows during 2018 although, “as expected​”, significant capacity investment resulted in year-end net debt of £26.8m, compared with net cash of £25.4m at the end of last year.

For Western Europe, which covers the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Portugal, it said that volume growth was 11.6%, mainly driven by the UK including the first full year of Seachill, and Ireland, although volumes were slightly lower in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.

Executive chairman Robert Watson said that the company would look to further expand its “global footprint​”, including diversifying into other proteins.

He revealed that, in March, the company started production in Australia from a satellite facility in Brisbane, Queensland.

This production will transfer across to a new facility nearby, which is now expected to open in the third quarter of 2019, he said.  

In July, it restructured its Australian joint venture, taking operational control of the existing plants in Bunbury, Western Australia and Melbourne, Victoria. It also signed a 15-year supply agreement with Australian supermarket chain Woolworths.

He added: “In October, we agreed to invest in the leading vegetarian product manufacturer Dalco, based in Oss in the Netherlands, which was completed following competition authority clearance since the year end. This deal includes an option for the remaining 50% of Dalco’s shares in 2024​.

This enables Hilton to diversify into a further protein and significantly expand its product offering in the fast-growing vegetarian market​.”

Short- and medium-term growth is to be underpinned by new facilities, due to open in Australia and New Zealand in 2019 and 2020 respectively, expanding the fish category and developing the vegetarian category through Dalco, as well as the fresh convenience food category in Central Europe and ready-to-cook sous vide category. In February, the company acquired UK sous vide manufacturer HRF Food Solutions.

"In 2018, we continued to deliver on our strategic objectives to build a significantly bigger and more diversified business. Seachill's integration, together with the new shellfish business win, has driven volume and profit growth further supported in Australia through the start of production and transfer of operational control in the joint venture facilities​,” said Watson.

We are adding another protein to our offering through an agreement to invest in leading vegetarian producer Dalco and continue to explore further opportunities in both domestic and overseas markets​."

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