In its update from 2 January to date, it reported that trading had been “in line with the board’s expectations”.
It said: “We have continued to grow by developing the business in existing markets and also through our geographic diversification.”
The largest growth was seen in its Australian market. “In Australia, we have seen double-digit volume growth in the joint venture covering the Bunbury and Victoria sites. The development work in relation to the Queensland site has continued in line with plans, with a site having been identified for the construction of the plant and planning permission having been lodged.”
Other positives reported included production overhauls in Portugal. “The new business in Portugal is already seeing improvements in consumer and customer KPIs, with much of the production line redevelopment work now complete, and with logistics automation scheduled as the next phase.”
In the UK, Hilton’s turnover has continued to grow relative to the same period last year, due to a combination of higher raw material pricing and some growth in trade. Its Irish and Swedish businesses have shown “encouraging top-line growth in the first quarter” and there are “positive signals going forward” after a slow start in Holland.
In Denmark, turnover was reported to be more stable.
Hilton’s Central Europe business was seen as more challenging, which the company had anticipated. To help tackle the expected challenges in the market, it implemented several changes, including the expansion of the product range.
The group said its financial position “remains strong, underpinned by good operating cash flows” and other operational highlights included the agreement to acquire a 50% share in Foods Connected, a market intelligence data management system company focused on the fresh food supply chain, which will be operated as a joint venture.
Commenting on the update, Darren Shirley of analyst Shore Capital, said: “We view Hilton Foods as medium- to long-term winner in the international food processing arena and, despite modest margins, we forecast robust growth, strong and sustained cash generation and see considerable potential for positive announcements on new or existing customer relationships over time.”