Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Clover, which makes dairy-based foods and beverages, says it will return to profit in the year ending June 2019 after making its first annual loss in more than a decade in the prior year.

The group’s share price fell 0.92% to R22.65 on Friday, a one-month low, despite the possibility of delisting from the JSE before it releases its results.

Its shareholders have accepted a buyout offer of R25 per share from a consortium led by Tel Aviv-based Central Bottling Company, but the withdrawal by consortium member Brimstone Investments has delayed proceedings.

Clover said on Friday it is expected to report headline earnings per share of 203.6c for the year to end-June after recording a headline loss per share of 23.1c in the prior comparative period.

The prior year’s loss came after the company wrote off a loan to its then recently unbundled subsidiary, Dairy Farmers of SA. That unbundling forms part of Clover’s bid to branch out into higher-margin consumer goods, such as olive oil and beverages.

Clover’s update showed a mixed performance, and the pressure on retailers has clearly not bypassed the company, said Small Talk Daily research analyst Anthony Clark.

The underlying trends in the dairy sector remain positive, and despite Clover being unable to pass on price increases to consumers, it may be able to do this later in the year, he said.

“However, it is all academic, as the R25 buyout for Clover has been approved, which indicates that the shareholders at the current level of earnings and the take-out place have gained a fair price from the consortium seeking to buy out Clover,” Clark said.

Clover said on Friday trading conditions in the retail and fast-moving consumer goods sectors had worsened in the months leading up to SA’s elections.

“Despite this, Clover continued to increase its market share in various categories on the back of marketing investment and additional trade support. This will bode well for future performance,” it said.

Clover said income from services “has come under pressure” due to lower volumes at one of its principals and the loss of a distribution contract. While a new principal has signed up, “efficiencies and the full financial impact of the contract” will only be realised in the next financial year.

The group has also signed a new five-year agreement with Danone Southern Africa to provide warehousing and distribution services from July. The deal is worth more than R400m, Clover said.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za 
hedleyn@businesslive.co.za