Dairy Crest expects lower first half profit

Sept 24 Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:48am EDT

Sept 24 (Reuters) - Dairy Crest Group Plc said it expects adjusted profit to fall in the first half as its core milk business continues to weigh on results, but the maker of Cathedral City cheese said its forecast for full-year profit remains unchanged.

Aggressive price wars between supermarkets and low bulk cream prices have hurt Dairy Crest's core milk business.

But strong cheese and spreads sales have helped the company maintain profitability.

Dairy Crest said trading in the first half of the year was challenging and that it expects profit, adjusted for the disposal of its St. Hubert business, to be lower than last year.

Brands like Cathedral City cheese, Country Life butter, Clover spread and Frijj milkshakes performed strongly, but the company's dairies business continued to face "unprecedented market conditions."

Dairy Crest is raising milk selling price, closing its Aintree creamery and consolidating milk rounds to reduce costs.

Plans to close its Fenstanton dairy this autumn are also on track, the company said.

Shares in the company, which completed the disposal of its St Hubert French branded spreads business last month, closed at 337.9 pence on Friday on the London Stock Exchange. They have gained 4 percent over the past three months.

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