Uniq depresses City with £17.1m loss

Uniq, which makes sandwiches and ready meals, depressed the market with the announcement of a £26m loss for its latest year on turnover of £830m.

Bad enough, but still an improvement on last year's loss of £72m on turnover of £880m. Uniq took a one-off hit of £18m, spent on restructuring its business, and another £12m charge for cancelling a contract with distribution group Wincanton.

Once we take the exceptional charges out of the picture, Uniq delivered profits of only £4.6m, 80% less than last year's £22.6m. Operating profits fell sharply, from £28.3m to £13.5m. Uniq's latest problems stem from an ill-timed purchase of the Minsterley desserts business, which kicked in with an £11.9m operating loss; from Northern Foods in 2004.

Problems with a new IT system and a big order from Tesco resulted in excess stock. Minsterley may return to profits in the fourth quarter of the current year.

Uniq's trading improved in the second half as a result of £10m price rise across its product range backed up by £9m of cost savings resulting from de-centralisation.

The business is selling its fresh food arm in Belgium and its French spreads division. The sale should produce between £180m and £200m which will be used to pay off its £97m pension deficit and service £95m worth of debt. Once these poison pills are removed, an opportunistic bidder could emerge in the shape of a venture capital investor looking for a quick profit.

Profits up 55% at genus

Genus, the designer cattle breeder, is to focus on its bull and pig business and sell off the shrimp business it acquired when it bought Sygen last October. Genus announced pre-tax profits sharply down from £8.1m to £1.1m in its latest year - but the fall was due to a one-off write off and sale costs. Stripping these out, profits rose 55% to £14.7m. Genus has champion breeding bulls such as 'Shottle' a bull which produces 200,000 doses of semen each year and whose offspring fetch £8,000 apiece.

Sir Ken Morrison hands over reins of power at last