Sparkling Results a Cheer for Bulmer

The Birmingham Post (England), March 30, 1998 | Go to article overview

Sparkling Results a Cheer for Bulmer


Shares in cider maker HP Bulmer put in a sparkling run towards the end of last week.

They finished up 15p at 396p on Friday, following Thursday's 26p rise, amid vague rumours that French drinks group Pernod Ricard was poised to make a bid.

Bulmer scotched the rumours, noting that Pernod is supposed to be bidding for everyone these days.

So why have the company's shares spurted from a 310p low just a month ago?

Like the rest of the cider industry Bulmer has been finding life tough. At the halear figures before Christmas finance director Mr Alan Flockhart put some of the blame on the industry itself.

Bulmer surveys, he said, had shown drinkers were not "unhappy with cider" but just needed "reminding about it more".

Cider firms reduced advertising spending just as the beer companies began a huge promotion drive.

The same thing happened in the late 1980s, when Bulmer - which makes the best-selling Strongbow brand - led an industry revival.

Higher duties on high alcohol content brands and cheap imported booze have also had an impact.

Mr Flockhart promised a pounds 2.5 million increase in marketing spend to revive flagging sales.

City enthusiasm could be fuelled by incoming chief executive, Mr Mike Hughes who starts work this week. Determined to head a revival, Mr Hughes will have a job filling the shoes of Mr Cider himsel Mr John Rudgard.

But as a former Coca-Cola director and the man responsible for launching Diet Coke in Europe, the City doubtless believes Mr Hughes is up for the challenge.

Blue Circle shares are subdued thanks to the group's large exposure in the Far East and investors will be looking for some reassurance from management this week.

Results today are likely to show profits up to about pounds 341 million from pounds 297 million a year ago, but the City wants to hear news of Blue Circle's overseas markets and ideas for a successor to chief executive Mr Keith Orrell-Jones. As the man credited with turning around the group in the 1990s, Mr Orrell-Jones's retirement next year will herald the start of a new era at the group.

Once details of the group's plans going forward emerge, the prospects for Blue Circle could improve dramatically. …

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