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News 722 views update:Jan 20, 2010

South Africa's Country Bird performing well

Country Bird, South Africa's third-largest poultry firm with a 9% market share, increased revenue to R2.24 bln, up from R1.69 bln, while attributable profit was up from R22.2 mln in 2008 to R125.6 mln in the first half of this year.

Reviewing the results, Country Bird financial director Robbie Taylor said a raft of acquisitions in the year under review had also partly helped to grow revenues, even though investments in Zambia and Botswana had only started to make an effect on the bottom line towards the end of the year.

“We are quite pleased with ourselves, especially when you consider the volatile trading period we experienced particularly in the first half,” he said.

The group operates an integrated poultry, stock feed and beef business in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. Locally, it operates as Supreme Poultry, Nutri Feeds and Long Iron Meats.

Its poultry breeding and broiler operations in the region are housed in the Ross Africa and Master Farmer brands.
The group said local poultry operations produced an operating profit of R155 mln while volumes went up by 4%.

Regional operations, however, gave management a headache during the year, mainly because of the collapse in consumer spending and pressure from competition in Zambia, and a fire at Botswana's largest abattoir which affected demand for broiler day-old chicks.

Acquisitions to grow

Taylor said Country Bird would not stop at spending money on acquisitions, provided they made business sense. “We have an appetite for acquisitions and growth but we won’t grow for the sake of it because it has to make sense.”

He said the broader African market was always an attractive option to achieve organic growth but was fraught with risks, among them the size of the markets and cyclical economic performances.

Locally, Country Bird steadily increased its stake in foods firm Sovereign Foods during the year, stopping short of making a formal offer.

Analysts expect a formal offer to be made, particularly now that another competitor, Afgri, has withdrawn from a plan to reverse list Sovereign Foods into one of its key subsidiaries, Afgri Foods, after realising Country Bird had already built a formidable stake in the same company.

R1 mln = $127,500 = €89,400

Natalie Berkhout

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