Robert Wiseman Dairies, the UK processor which has been at the centre of an Office of Fair Trading investigation for several months, last week reported solid interim figures and announced it was on target to sell more than a billion litres of milk this year.
The company reported sales volumes for the first half up 15.6 per cent to 503 million litres, in turn lifting value sales by nearly 5 per cent to £187.2 million and pre-tax profits by 24 per cent to £11.1 million. Turnover would have been higher if not for lower raw milk prices.
Chairman Alan Wiseman said: "Our strategy remains unchanged and the board is optimistic that the bold decisions we have taken on capital investment in recent years are now beginning to make a meaningful return. We remain confident we are on track to deliver continued growth in the period."
Wiseman said that the rise in volumes had been due to a full six months of sales to major supermarket chains Sainsbury, Safeway and Somerfield, and the addition of new accounts with other retailers and wholesalers such as Makro, Batleys and Bestway.
Profitability was improved by a new state-of-the-art dairy at Droitwich Spa. The dairy has benefited from higher production levels and during the six month period processed some 120 million litres, compared to 40 million litres during the same period in 2001.
Wiseman also commented on the decision of the Office of Fair Trading not to take legal proceedings against the company after finding that there was no grounds for complaint, saying that the decision of Express Dairies to appeal against the decision was "consistent with their behaviour from the moment they acquired a controlling stake in Claymore Dairies in December 1998.
"Our focus is to continue to win business throughout Great Britain from our competitors, including Express, through strong but fair competition. Our strategy for growth has not been affected by Express's regulatory interventions and we will continue to defend our position vigorously."