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Astral sounds profit alarm

Jan 30 2013 16:10

Company Data


Last traded 262
Change 0
% Change 0
Cumulative volume 388616
Market cap 0

Last Updated: 01/01/0001 at 12:00. Prices are delayed by 15 minutes. Source: McGregor BFA

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Johannesburg - Astral Foods Limited [JSE:ARL]) on Wednesday said it recorded its worst trading performance in its history as a listed entity over the first quarter of the 2013 financial year-end. This period included the 2012 festive season.

The news sent the stock down more than 7% on the JSE to its lowest level in three months. The stock last traded hands down 7.07% at R94.05.

One of South Africa's leading poultry producers said in a trading statement its operating profit for the first quarter ended December 31 2012, was 60% lower than the corresponding period.

Astral's CEO Chris Schutte said the company indicated during its 2012 year-end results road show that it was expecting poor trading conditions to prevail for the first half of the 2013 financial year-end.

"Unfortunately, the trading conditions during the first quarter of the 2013 financial year were more severe than anticipated.

"Indications are that the second quarter performance will be much worse than the first quarter and as a result, Astral's results for the six months ending 31 March 2013 will be severely impacted."

The factors that negatively influenced Astral's Poultry Division over the first quarter of 2013, and set to continue over the second quarter of 2013, include the high input costs relating to maize and soya procured at historic record price levels and only now being reflected in the production cost of poultry.

The Poultry Division's ability to recover the high input costs in a depressed consumer environment was severely hampered by record poultry imports from Brazil and Europe, and subsequent high local poultry stocks led to excessive margin pressure over the same period.

Astral's Feed and other African Divisions continue to report good performances. Astral has a reasonable degree of certainty, considering the current market environment, that earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the six months ending March 31 2013 will be down between 45% and 65% and 75% and 95% respectively, versus the six months ended 31 March 2012.

Astral also said that its operations were severely affected by violent strike action in the Western Cape and Gauteng between November 2012 and January 2013.

"As a result of this action, Astral experienced one fatality, six farms were affected by vandalism and three poultry sheds were burnt down by the strikers, in the process killing approximately 65 000 chickens.

"The damage to the poultry assets and resultant impact on production could lead to jobs being cut," the group warned.

The direct costs of the strikes are estimated to be in excess of R35m. Operations in both regions are back to normal.

In light of the severe drop in forecast headline earnings the likelihood of payment of an interim dividend is uncertain, the group said.

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